Police role in scams a ‘national insult’; City council threatens watercraft ban
Widespread scams by Pattaya jet ski operators have drawn the attention of both Chonburi’s governor and the Ministry of Justice, who are demanding city officials, police and local businesspeople work together to resolve a situation that has become a national embarrassment.
Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome called in jet ski vendors to meet with city and police officials April 12, warning them that the Pattaya City Council wants to ban all jet skis on Pattaya Beach and that foreign media are now watching their every move.
The Justice Ministry, he added, became involved after seeing Internet videos of law enforcement officers helping vendors who falsely claim their customers damaged jet skis, then demand tens of thousand of baht in compensation, sometimes physically assaulting those who refuse to pay.
Ministry officials, Itthiphol said, called the situation an “insult” to the image of the entire country and believe swift action is needed to resolve a “serious problem.”
Itthiphol has been inundated with complaints from non-Thais about the jet ski problem since the Pattaya Mail posted videos and links to reports of the scams to his Facebook page earlier this year.
Since then, dozens of new reports, photos and movies have been added, all showing the same thing: Jet ski vendors are systematically targeting mostly non-Western tourists for ripoffs. And, photos show, they are getting a handful of corrupt police officers and non-Thai “interpreters” to help them.
The outcry has since spread from the social networking website to independent blogs and even newspaper reports in England, Australia and Europe.
Tourist Police commander Lt. Col. Arun Prompan said the jet ski situation “has gotten worse” and said that, right or wrong, he has prohibited Tourist Police officers from getting involved in disputes. As he put it, (paraphrased) the jet ski operators are ‘destroying their own rice barn’. He urges them to build a sustainable living from their rentals and not cheat tourists as a means for extra income. In other words, he said the jet ski operators need to straighten out this situation amongst themselves, otherwise no one will rent from them any more and even the honest jet ski rental businesses will be hurt.
Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh added that police are not the ones who should be mediating such disputes because, the way the law is written, the problem is a civil, not a criminal, matter.
He said revisions of the law now under consideration would require all jet ski vendors in Pattaya, Jomtien Beach and Koh Larn to register with the city. The new law will also rezone the beach to establish regulated, monitored watersports areas.
Maj. Kititat Kanchai of the Pattaya Police Station said the jet ski vendors are also being targeted for drug use and sales. Many times, he said, operators that have been checked tested positive for drugs.