PBTA chief calls for jet ski ban

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Business group briefed on higher waste-treatment fees

The head of Pattaya’s leading business association said he wants to see jet skis outlawed in the city, but will agree to give honest vendors one last chance to reign in those engaging in fraud and extortion.

Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, president of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association, said Aug. 14 that Pattaya’s consistent failure to reign in scam artists and thugs renting out jet skis on area beaches has severely damaged the city’s tourism industry, bringing hard times to even the honest vendors trying to make a living.

It’s just like the old proverb “a rotten fish poisons every fish in the pond,” he said, saying he simply would like to see Pattaya get out of the jet ski business. “It just isn’t worth it.”

(L to R) PBTA Advisers’ Chairman Thanet Supornsahatrangsi, Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay, PBTA President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, Thai Hotel Association, Eastern Chapter President Sanphet Suphabuansathien, and DASTA Manager Thaweepong Wichaidit call a meeting to find a way to deal with tourism problems.(L to R) PBTA Advisers’ Chairman Thanet Supornsahatrangsi, Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay, PBTA President Sinchai Wattanasartsathorn, Thai Hotel Association, Eastern Chapter President Sanphet Suphabuansathien, and DASTA Manager Thaweepong Wichaidit call a meeting to find a way to deal with tourism problems.

Sinchai admitted, however, that putting hundreds of vendors out of work after they made investments in their expensive watercraft would not be fair to those not engaging in the popular scam in which tourists are told they damaged their rented jet ski and must pay tens of thousands of baht in compensation, sometimes under threat of physical assault.

But honest vendors can no longer sit idly by and let the scams continue, Sinchai said. If honest vendors don’t want city hall to ban jet skis, they need to both self-police their ranks and turn in to authorities those engaged in criminal activity, he said.

For now, Pattaya must again repair the damage done by scam artists, Sinchai said. The first step is to write a letter to the government of India, which recently wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express its concerns about repeated ripoffs of Indian tourists.

Sinchai said earlier the issue with India was so serious that Pattaya runs the risk of being boycotted by one of its largest tourist markets.

Once the letter has been sent, the city must again bring in every jet ski vendor operating in Pattaya and broker an agreement to cooperatively end the extortion and intimidation. If the agreement is broken, then city hall should simply ban them all, Sinchai said.

A different cleanup

At the PBTA’s Aug. 14 meeting at the Grand Sole Hotel, the association also heard city hall’s plan to harmonize rates charged for waste treatment.

Deputy Mayor Verawat Khakhay said currently Pattaya charges different rates for residences; government, state enterprises, and small businesses; and factories and large-scale businesses. Rates charged a 2.5, 3 and 3.5 baht per square meter of waste.

Pattaya officials not only want to raise rates to 6.5 baht per square meter, but charge that rate for all customers. Verawat said the city currently spends 59 million baht on waste treatment but collects only 20 million baht in fees.

The steep proposed increase for private residences has caused an uproar, but PBTA board member Thanet Supornsahatrangsi said he believes the general public should pay more of its share to treat waste generated by homes, or, at the least, install their own treatment systems.

Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism regional general manager Thaweepong Wichaidit acknowledged Pattaya faces a bigger challenge than major cities like Bangkok in covering its costs. Even though private residences are charged waste-treatment fees in the capital, the area is large enough that businesses can cover expenses, he said.

Verawat said the construction of the area’s four water-treatment plants has been a key driver in cleaning up the environment and gaining positive reviews from tourists. He said either fees will need to be raised or homes will need to have their own systems installed.