Bangkok (AP) – The traditional Thai New Year’s holiday has turned out to be anything but fun for more than 1,000 would-be travelers who were stranded at Bangkok’s international airport after their cut-rate tour packages to Japan turned out to be an apparent scam.
Police said hundreds of people lodged complaints after finding themselves at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday with no flight to board. They said they had booked six-day tour packages with WealthEver, better known as a multi-level marketing company.
Victims told Thai television interviewers that they paid 9,730 baht ($280) for a package including airfare and accommodation. One way-fare from Bangkok to Tokyo alone typically costs more than $400.
Thai media reported that WealthEver boss Pasit Arinchalapit was detained by police late Wednesday in Ranong, a border province, after a manhunt was launched for her. They also reported that Pasit had been the object of fraud complaints before, and has changed her name several times.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, asked about the incident, warned his fellow Thais against gullibility that makes them victims to such scams.
“Thai people believe others too easily,” Prayuth said. “When I say something, people really don’t believe me, but they believe it when other people talk, and then they get scammed. I’m not saying I am better, but I don’t cheat people.”
Many people take the opportunity of the holiday – officially three days long but in practice extending to over a week – to return from the big cities to their families’ home villages. The mass movement of people, along with the drinking that accompanies the revelry, leads to a surge in traffic deaths in a country already noted for having the second-highest traffic fatality rate in the world.