Pattaya officials finally move against jet ski vendors

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Pattaya officials have finally moved against the city’s many jet ski scam artists, ordering every vendor working the area’s beaches to register at city hall by Aug. 10 or be classified a criminal operator.

At yet another meeting Aug. 3 on the scandal that has besmirched the city’s image internationally for more than a year, officials pounded fists on tables and professed outrage at the seemingly endless string of incidents involving extortion and physical intimidation of tourists by jet ski touts plaguing Pattaya, Jomtien and Naklua beaches.

Pattaya beach Jet Ski operators once again listen to the city dressing them down.Pattaya beach Jet Ski operators once again listen to the city dressing them down.

Officials were apparently content to ignore overseas and online media accounts of the scams. But a July 26 expose on government-owned Channel 3 TV prompted police and administrators to get serious about addressing the scandal.

Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh told vendors assembled that all watercraft vendors must report to Pattaya City Hall by Aug. 10 to provide copies of identification cards, vehicle registration and other documents which would be distributed to city hall and police officials. Licenses would eventually be issued and Ronakit said matters related to insurance for the jet skis would be discussed at a later meeting.

A number of ideas related to regulating the jet ski industry were proposed, many of them heard several times before. One new suggestion, however, was to create a centralized rental desk where tourists would purchase coupons covering rental of any jet ski as well as insurance cover for any damage they might cause.

Currently, anyone with a jet ski can set up shop on Pattaya Beach with no license and pay no taxes. Many have done just that, padding their earnings by extorting huge sums of money from tourists by fraudulently claiming they damaged their watercraft. Trusting tourists often turned to police, many of whom work with the beachfront scam artists and get kickbacks of any cash generated.

At the meeting, Banglamung District Chief Chawalit Saeng-Uthai said the situation was out of control and that Pattaya’s image is being destroyed around the world by a handful of beachfront thugs.

Ronakit claimed only about 10 individuals were actually the cause of all the problems, although in the next breath he admitted there’s been no actual survey of who is working the beach.

Chawalit added he believes public officials have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg and that many deeper problems have yet to be addressed. He advocated a team of negotiators be created to mediate vendor-customer disputes.