Cops uncover widespread travel co-payment fraud

Cops uncover widespread travel co-payment fraud

A police officer shows a chart detailing frauds involving the Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) co-payment scheme. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
A police officer shows a chart detailing frauds involving the Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) co-payment scheme. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

At least 800 people were hired to abuse the Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) co-payment scheme in Phuket, according to the Royal Thai Police (RTP).

Fifty people have been arrested for defrauding the scheme. The RTP yesterday held a press briefing headed by national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk to disclose details of the fraud, which was uncovered in several major tourism provinces.

Deputy national police chief Damrongsak Kittiprapat was assigned to lead the investigation into the fraudulent tactics employed to cheat the co-payment programme. The scheme is designed to spur domestic tourism decimated by the Covid-10 pandemic.

Under the Rao Tiew Duay Kan scheme, participants pay only 60% of normal hotel room rates, with the government responsible for the rest. The subsidy was initially capped at 3,000 baht per night for up to five consecutive nights, but has now been expanded to 10 nights.

Tourists also automatically receive an e-voucher for other spending valued at 600 baht from Friday to Sunday and 900 baht from Monday to Thursday under the scheme. The government also helps pay 40% of the price of air tickets, up to a maximum of 3,000 baht per person -- up from 1,000 baht and 2,000 baht in the first few months of the scheme. Police yesterday said between 800-1,000 people were paid to sign up for the Rao Tiew Duay Kan scheme so the cheaters could take full advantage of its privileges.

People would book hotel rooms and fill out forms to confirm their intention to take advantage of the co-payment privilege. After that the fraudsters would check in at hotels using the people's identities and obtain the e-vouchers which they then spent at shops which they either owned or were connected to.

Police also found some hotels joined the co-payment scheme and received bookings even though they were not open for business. Others jacked up the room rate to claim extra government subsidies from the programme.

Police said in Phuket, at least 800 people sold their Rao Tiew Duay Kan privileges.

Another 12 people in the island province were caught by police after they conned people into booking bogus package tours they had advertised. However, the tours never materialised while the identities of the people who booked tours were used to obtain co-payment privileges.

In Chaiyaphum, many people linked to the fraud were nabbed, including one hotel owner and 14 individuals who agreed to book rooms so cheaters could benefit from the co-payment scheme.

Similar acts of fraud took place in at least six other provinces such as Chaiyaphum, Loei, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Phetchabun and Si Sa Ket.

Pol Gen Suwat said some cheaters worked in gangs paying 400-500 baht to each person who agreed to make bookings for the benefits.

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