Out­bound tour com­pany said to de­fraud trav­ellers

The Myanmar Times - - News - EI EI THU eiei­thu@mm­times.com

COM­PLAINTS to po­lice about a Yan­gon Re­gion travel com­pany from an­gry cus­tomers have high­lighted the weak­nesses of the law gov­ern­ing tour com­pa­nies, in­dus­try ex­perts say.

They are de­mand­ing ac­tion from the govern­ment to rec­tify the prob­lem.

The fraud com­plaints cen­tre around Tour­box Travel and Tours, in San­chaung town­ship, a mem­ber of the Union of Myan­mar Travel As­so­ci­a­tion (UMTA), which had rec­om­mended the is­suance of a li­cence from the tourism min­istry. Dozens of po­ten­tial cus­tomers had con­tacted the agency to ar­range tours abroad, in­clud­ing to Europe, Ja­pan and Cam­bo­dia, but were cheated out of money with no re­sult­ing trip.

“Six cus­tomers have al­ready com­plained to the San­chaung po­lice sta­tion, and we re­ported the cases to the dis­trict,” po­lice of­fi­cer U Thein Win told The Myan­mar Times.

“The dis­trict al­lowed us to con­tinue the case but we have not yet re­ceived an of­fi­cial let­ter, which means we can­not ac­tu­ally launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the [al­leged] fraud­ster, who at this point may have al­ready run away,” he added.

Daw Sabei Aung, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Na­ture Dream Trav­els & Tours, told The Myan­mar Times, “This shows the weak­ness of the tourism law. We have yet to see any ac­tion from the Min­istry of Ho­tels and Tourism. These mat­ters should be re­solved be­fore the po­lice are in­volved in order to pro­tect our in­dus­try’s rep­u­ta­tion,” she said, adding that the min­istry should set up a com­plaints mech­a­nism.

“Cur­rent min­istry pro­ce­dures are too long and com­pli­cated. An ac­cused fraud­ster can dis­ap­pear while the doc­u­ments are still be­ing filed,” she said.

“Some­one should have known that there was some­thing not quite right,” she added.

Un­der ex­ist­ing law, un­li­censed travel op­er­a­tors can be im­pris­oned for up to three years, fined K50,000 (US$42), or both, said U Myo Win Nyunt, di­rec­tor of the Min­istry of Ho­tels and Tourism.

He said UMTA should first ne­go­ti­ate with the com­pany and then in­form the min­istry if the prob­lem can­not be re­solved. The min­istry can add the com­pany’s name to a black­list and re­voke its li­cence.

“No li­cence was granted to Tour­box for out­bound tourism, so we can take ac­tion un­der the law af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing,” he said.

Tour­box joined UMTA in April, and the as­so­ci­a­tion had sup­ported the com­pany’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a li­cence, said UMTA chair U Thet Lwin Toh. “I don’t know if the min­istry had granted the li­cence or not, but ev­ery out­bound tour com­pany has had to have an out­bound li­cence since March, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry di­rec­tive,” he said. “We in­vited the com­pany to ne­go­ti­ate with us, but it ap­pears the owner has al­ready left the coun­try.”

An­other po­ten­tial source of fraud was posed by on­line tour com­pa­nies. “We have no law that pro­tects peo­ple from fraud by for­eign com­pa­nies. Such a law is needed for our pro­tec­tion,” U Thet Lwin Toh said.

Daw Hla Darli Khin, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Tour De Myan­mar, warned cus­tomers to be care­ful about who they deal with.

“If the price looks too cheap, some­thing could be wrong. Cus­tomers should check the com­pany’s back­ground be­fore they pay,” she said.

More than 20 peo­ple com­plained to po­lice af­ter Tour­box of­fered a Cam­bo­dia-Bangkok trip for US$529 and a Ja­pan pack­age for $2000 on July 20.

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