Thai tour op­er­a­tors charged over vis­i­tor scams

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

BANGKOK: Thai pros­e­cu­tors have charged a string of tour op­er­a­tors with rip­ping off Chi­nese tourists, po­lice said yes­ter­day, as the king­dom cracks down on scams tar­get­ing their most lu­cra­tive visi­tors.

China sends more peo­ple to Thai­land than any other na­tion and tourism re­mains one of the few bright spots in the king­dom’s oth­er­wise bleak econ­omy.

But com­plaints have soared in re­cent years over dodgy tour guides and prac­tices, par­tic­u­larly so-called “ze­rodol­lar” scams.

Such schemes prom­ise Chi­nese pack­age tourists an im­pos­si­bly cheap or free hol­i­day only to pile on ex­ces­sive charges once they ar­rive in Thai­land.

Pros­e­cu­tors this week charged 13 peo­ple from seven dif­fer­ent Thai tour op­er­a­tors.

“They are charged with or­gan­ised crime of­fences, joint money laun­der­ing and il­le­gally run­ning tourist op­er­a­tions with­out per­mis­sion,” deputy na­tional po­lice spokesman Colonel Kris­sana Pat­tanacharoen said.

Me­dia, cit­ing Bangkok’s Crim­i­nal Court, said the com­pa­nies made as much as US$2.7 mil­lion (RM12 mil­lion) through the scams.

Court of­fi­cials did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

In re­cent years China has played a ma­jor role in keep­ing Thai­land’s tourist boom rolling.

Tourism au­thor­i­ties say they are on course to re­ceive a record 32 mil­lion visi­tors this year, up from 30 mil­lion last year.

Nearly one third will come from China with 9.1 mil­lion ex­pected, a 14% in­crease on the pre­vi­ous year.

Thai­land’s junta, which has moved closer to Bei­jing since seiz­ing power in 2014, is des­per­ate to avoid any tail-off in Chi­nese vis­i­tor num­bers.

So far tourists from Thai­land’s gi­ant re­gional neigh­bour have kept on com­ing de­spite some ma­jor set­backs.

Last year 20 peo­ple were killed, most of them eth­nic Chi­nese tourists, in a bomb blast at a shrine in Bangkok. – AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.