Jet ski problem ‘solved,’ no ‘mafia’ operates in city, group contends
Stung by incessant news reports about foreign criminal activity in Pattaya, top area police and business leaders plan to hold a press conference to put their own spin on crime stories they claim have hurt the city’s image.
The heads of the Chonburi Immigration Office, Banglamung District, Pattaya Tourist Police, and Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, joined top officials from police stations in Chonburi, Nongprue, Banglamung and Pattaya and representatives from the National Intelligence Agency and Internal Security Operational Command July 31 to condemn local media reports about crimes by both foreigners and Thais.
(From left) Pol. Col. Arun Promphan, Pattaya tourism police inspector, Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, president of Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, Pol. Col. Chaiyot Varakjunkiat, superintendent of Chonburi immigration, and Sakchai Taengho, Banglamung district chief, along with invited guests discuss how the press affects Pattaya’s image.
They complained the media is sensationalizing crimes and even distorting facts to make matters sound worse than they really are.
“I request the media reduce using such harsh language, since some news incidents are not as severe as they are reported to be,” Business & Tourism Association President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn said. “It’s being done just to sell newspapers and is resulting in destruction to the image of Pattaya.”
Failing to see the irony in their “don’t shoot the messenger” tirade, the politicians and police officials offered no plans or ideas on how to actually quell Pattaya’s crime problem, only decrying the impact the coverage has on tourism.
“I’m not happy with the news that has been published, much of about Pattaya having foreign organized crime gangs in the city,” said Banglamung District Chief Sakchai Taengho. “Stories about foreign or Thai mafia leads to a bad image, destroying many aspects of the city.”
“I’ve not seen a real mafia criminal in Pattaya since that German gangster was deported,” agreed Sinchai, referring to an influential German businessman, who allegedly bribed a politician in 1998 and, after sneaking back into the kingdom, was caught and deported in 2006.
Sinchai did admit, however, that organized crime-like gangs have been responsible for the jet ski and speedboat scams that have plagued the city. But, he said, “I believe these groups are small.”
Adding to the surrealism of the moment, Chonburi Immigration Superintendent Col. Chaiyot Varakjunkiat chimed in that Pattaya’s jet ski and speedboat problems “have already been solved.”
More concerning to him were Thai news reports that an illegal poker game broken up by police on Pratamnak Hill July 28 was run by Russian organized crime. It was not, Chaiyot said. None of the participants were Russian. (The Pattaya Mail this week reports in its story that the game was operated by an American with help from two Cambodians.)
Foreign organized crime is not the main problem Pattaya faces, said Sinchai, also condemning media reports that the Pratamnak Hill “casino” was operated by and for Russians.
“The real problem we face is that most foreigners working here are using nominee companies, or have married a Thai woman and have purchased land or investing in businesses, which is illegal, since foreigners cannot hold land,” the business and tourism association president said.
“I believe that Pattaya must call a press conference to counter the news and compare and analyze cases involving foreigners in all four police jurisdictions,” Sinchai said. “By doing this, society will be able to see whether Pattaya has organized crime or not and will learn that police officers care and enforce the law.”
Both the association chief and the immigration boss took pains to point out that organized crime problems in Pattaya are not as severe as in Phuket.
“Down there they have illegal taxis threatening and gouging tourists. This does not happen here,” said Sinchai. “Most of what occurs in Pattaya is re business conflicts,” he added, referring the July 2 arrest of a Russian loan shark who is accused of kidnapping non-paying clients and forcing at least one woman into prostitution.
“Foreigners don’t understand money lending and Thais are the ones offering them advice,” he said.
Concluding that Pattaya was a paradise that has been grossly misrepresented by the media to sell papers and cable television, the outraged politicians, business owners and police agreed to organize an even larger press forum where they promised to tell the “real” story about crime in Pattaya.
No date for the event was announced.