Thai tour guides are complaining that foreigners are stealing their jobs and ruining Thailand and its international reputation.
More than 50 members of the Pattaya Tour Guide Club filed a complaint with the Department of Special Investigations Dec. 23, urging Thailand’s top law enforcement agency to do something about Russians and other foreigners working without work permits.
Club President Krittidet Suttichotipunya claimed his group has not only lost jobs to foreigners who speak the same language as the foreign tourists, but that these foreigners are misrepresenting Thai history, culture and traditions. They also complained that members who actually do have jobs are being paid below the legal minimum wage by many tour operators.
Pattaya Tour Guide Club president, Krittidet Suttichotipunya (3rd left, with flowers), along with a group of tour guides, file a complaint with DSI Deputy Director-General Phermphun Phungprasit (4th left), and DSI Eastern Operation Center Director Prawit Chaibuadaeng (5th left), regarding illegal foreign tour guides.
In a nod to the tour guide group, the DSI launched a raid on Pattaya’s Vitamax mall the same day. The supposed crackdown on sellers of illegally imported food supplements and cosmetics was merely a smokescreen for the targeting of Russian tour guides, as DSI officers arrested 22 at the site, along with four illegal Cambodians.
“The illegal guides working in place of us not only steal our jobs, but they do not understand our history, our traditions, culture or the reality of being Thai, causing tourists to misunderstand our history,” Krittidet claimed. “The illegal foreign tour guides also give negative information about Thai guides, claiming they will be abandoned or threatened.”
The main culprits, Krittidet said, are Russians who set up companies using a Thai nominee who has no actual role in the company. They then operate the business as their own, avoiding taxes and not applying for work permits.
Krittidet conveniently avoided blaming the Thai immigration and labors departments responsible for ensuring guides possess the proper permits. He also neglected to mention most Thai guides can’t speak Russian.
The tour guide president said he believes that the only way for Thailand to achieve its goal of generating 2.2 trillion baht in tourism revenue by 2015 is to reduce – not increase – the number of tour guides working by eliminating all the illegal Russian guides.
“We have to consider that they are all dangerous to tourism because the income earned is not in our pockets, but in the foreigners,” the Thai tour guide said. “All we have to do is eradicate the illegal Russian tour companies or illegal tour guides and our country will have double the income.”
“Not only do Thais receive less cash, our natural resources are destroyed by pollution from tourists, leaving locals to brainstorm solutions themselves,” he said. “The issues faced by tour guides are a national level problem that has affected Thai employment since Russian tour companies have hired Russians or illegal foreigners to work leading to not only unemployment for tour guides but also other professions.”