Five jet ski vendors were arrested for physically threatening a group of Saudi Arabian tourists who refused to pay exorbitant sums for alleged damage to watercraft they rented.
Chaturong Singhakam, 24; Somporn Thongpaiwan, 27; Sriphaiporn Montho, 27; Aukrin Tongpiwin, 26, and Aroon Choomkaew, 36, were apprehended in the lobby of the Marriott Resort & Spa Sept. 24. The suspects had allegedly pursued their four Saudi customers into the hotel after police refused to help them extort 200,000 baht from the tourists for supposed damage to two jet skis.
Police have finally arrested 5 members of the Pattaya Beach jet ski racketeers – Chaturong Singhakam, Somporn Thongpaiwan, Sriphaiporn Montho, Aukrin Tongpiwin, and Aroon Choomkaew. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it.
Hotel Manager Somsak Tanruengsri called police, reporting that the Thais were physically threatening his guests and barring them from going to their rooms.
The confrontation was the most-brazen assault to date by Pattaya’s unscrupulous jet ski operators and shows that thugs have little fear of police or city officials, who vowed early this month to stamp out the widespread scams by having vendors register with city hall and obtain valid business licenses by Sept. 10.
The incident played out in common fashion: The four Saudis rented two jet skis from the beachfront vendors near the Marriott and, upon returning the craft, were told they had severely damaged the boats and had to pay compensation. In this case it was 100,000 baht per boat.
The Saudis, who admitted to scraping the two jet skis together, said 200,000 was far in excess of the damage and refused to pay. They called in police, who brought both parties to the Pattaya Police Station. No settlement could be reached with the Saudis saying they preferred to have a court settle the matter.
Police sent both sides on their way, promising to continue the matter later. But the vendors, unaccustomed to being denied a fat settlement, apparently tried to settle matters on their own. Their mistake was taking it into one of the city’s most-prestigious hotels.
Tourist Police commander Lt. Col. Arun Promphan said that while police were content to let the extortion complaint run its course through the legal system, the suspects’ alleged physical intimidation of the tourists inside a five-star resort crossed the line.
The epidemic of jet ski scams – illustrated on Thai and international television, newspapers and the Internet – has been a huge embarrassment for the city, he said, and extortion would not be tolerated.
Following the arrest, the four victims contacted the Saudi Embassy, which reportedly will press legal charges against the alleged extortionists.