Tuk-tuk, gems swindling suspects arrested

Tuk-tuk, gems swindling suspects arrested

Two tourists stroll past a row of tuktuks waiting for passengers on Rama I Road. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Two tourists stroll past a row of tuktuks waiting for passengers on Rama I Road. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Twenty-two suspected swindlers, including tuk-tuk drivers, accused of luring foreign tourists to jewellery shops and restaurants in return for high commissions have been arrested in Bangkok as part of a police crackdown on gangs preying on holidaymakers.

National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang announced the arrests of the 22 members of a gang on Thursday.

Police have charged them with creating a nuisance to others in public areas, colluding in swindling and parking vehicles in prohibited areas.

The gang was accused of targeting tourists wanting to visit popular tourist attractions in Bangkok such as Wat Pho and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew. They used misinformation about the historic places opening hours and used persuasive tactics to get the tourists to go shopping at places that offered them commission fees, said Pol Gen Somyot. 

The distorted information about the operating hours of tourist venues caused a misunderstanding among tourists and the action of the swindlers tarnished the image of tourism.

"Tourist police drew up a plan to arrest the swindling gang members that prey on tourists and this has led to the arrest of 22 members," the national police chief said. "The gang’s activities have ruined the image of the country and the tourism industry."

The gang was made up of tuk-tuk drivers and their associates. They hung out at the entrance gates of places like the Grand Palace. They approach tourists, particularly those travelling alone, and give false information about the historic temples in the areas being closed because of religious activities, Pol Gen Somyot said. They would then use pressure tactics to persuade the tourists to visit other venues such as jewellery shops, restaurants and tailor shops that offer them special fees for bring in customers.

Tourists who had fallen victim to the gang had posted their stories online. Foreign media had reported the stories in newspapers and television broadcasts and this had caused damage to Thailand, the police chief said.

Police spokesman Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri said the gang received high commission fees of up to 30% of sales from some jewellery shops, restaurants and tailor shops.

He warned operators of those enterprises to stop their conduct or face charges of colluding in swindling.

He cited the case of Chinese tourists who were recently lured to a seafood restaurant and had to pay an exhorbitant food bill.

Pol Maj Gen Apichai Thi-amart, chief of the Tourist Police Division, urged people to alert tourist police via the 1155 hotline around the clock if they spot swindlers preying on tourists.

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