Chonburi governor sets new committee to address jet ski issue

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India warns tourists, expresses doubts over Pattaya officials’ commitment

Chonburi’s governor has established yet another committee to discuss regulations aimed the endless series of tourist scams perpetrated by Pattaya’s jet ski operators.

Under pressure from both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Gov. Khomsan Ekachai Aug. 9 named Pattaya mayor, deputy mayor and permanent secretary, Banglamung District’s chief and the city’s acting police chief to the panel which will “brainstorm new ideas” for drafting regulations concerning registration, limiting the number of jet skis and evaluating damage compensation and penalties for scammers.

(L to R) Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Chonburi Governor Khomsan Ekachai, Chonburi Police Deputy Commander Pisit Proirungroj, and Banglamung District Chief Chaowalit Saeng-Uthai discuss problems facing tourism in Pattaya. (L to R) Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Chonburi Governor Khomsan Ekachai, Chonburi Police Deputy Commander Pisit Proirungroj, and Banglamung District Chief Chaowalit Saeng-Uthai discuss problems facing tourism in Pattaya.

“The jet ski issue is a long standing one and it is time that it must be seriously dealt with,” Khomsan said. He said once the committee has drafted new rules, they will be given to the governor who pledged to “completely eradicate the issue.”

Athapol Vannakit, director of TAT’s Pattaya office, can only hope he does. But he has reason to be skeptical. The new committee is the third established in the past two years and comprised of many of the same officials who, so far, have done little more than wring their hands and posture for reporters before doing nothing to resolve the problem.

Foreign governments, he told the governor, are not waiting around.

The Indian tourist agency is now warning visitors to avoid Pattaya if planning to go to Thailand for water sports. The country’s embassy, as well as those representing Pattaya’s other two top markets, Russia and China, have expressed doubts about the resolve of Pattaya officials to fix the problem.

A top Indian newspaper went even further, publishing a story at the top of its BangaloreMirror.com home page with a damning headline, condemning the local police for what the Indian newspaper sees as their alleged involvement.

If the problem isn’t fixed soon, Athapol said, the billions of baht the agency has spent on developing the Indian, Russian and Chinese markets will be wasted.

At an Aug. 9 meeting, Khomsan and top Pattaya elected and police officials agreed the Thai Waters Navigation Act of 2003 deems jet skis as recreational boats only and cannot be rented as commercial watercraft. But, inexplicably, the assembled bureaucrats didn’t use that determination to outright ban vendors.

Instead, the governor said the committee will draft new rules to allow the practice to continue under tighter regulations.

The jet ski issue was identified by the Prime Minister’s Office and a top Royal Thai Police consultant as one of the major obstacles to Thailand increasing its tourism revenue to 2 trillion baht by 2015. Traffic and security in Pattaya were other issues.

Chonburi police commander Maj. Gen. Jumong Rattanakul said security concerns can be addressed by training business owners on relevant laws and creating new security regulations at a later date.

Traffic issues can be solved by allowing local police to ticket drivers on Highway 7 and solving congestion on local streets.

Pattaya Business & Tourism Association President Wiwat Pattanasin told the group that Pattaya will continue to lose revenue as long as traffic woes exist.