BANGKOK – Thailand on Monday opened a special courtroom at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to hear complaints from tourists.
The initiative will enable courts to deal with legal issues involving foreign visitors quickly and efficiently, authorities said.
“This is to provide convenience for tourists who are involved in minor cases because they have a short period to stay in the kingdom,” said Sittisak Wannanchakij, a spokesman for the judiciary.
Cases will be heard via video link at the nearby Samut Prakan provincial court. The aim is to reduce the number of crimes at the airport and improve the image of the country.
Airports of Thailand interim president Pongsak Semsan was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying that 1,980 crimes were reported at the airport from January to August, mostly petty.
Suvarnabhumi international airport receives about 150,000 passenger arrivals each day. It has been dogged by complaints of over-pricing by taxis and scams at duty-free shops involving tourists being falsely accused of shoplifting.
Thailand expects about 26-million tourists this year, and depends on the sector to boost foreign-currency earnings and employment. It plans to open a total of eight tourist courts across the country.
On September 5, the first special court was opened in the beach resort of Pattaya, 100 kilometres south-east of Bangkok, to handle minor cases involving tourists.
Pattaya, notorious for its seedy nightlife, was chosen for the first court because it attracts the most foreign tourists and is rife with complaints of cheating and scams.
Another tourist court is due to open in Phuket, a resort island 600 kilometres south of Bangkok, on Tuesday.
The move has been welcomed by some in the travel industry.
“I think it’s a good thing. I would say congratulations to the minister of tourism for making it happen,” said Luzi Matzig, director of the Asian Trails travel agency.
“It seems the Pattaya court is working, now we have Bangkok and pretty soon Phuket. I welcome the idea. The courts can issue fines or arrest warrants if the people are found to be crooks, and then the tourists can leave.”
He said the main scams targeting tourists in Thailand involve the hire of jet skis in Pattaya and Phuket, overcharging by taxis, and sales of fake jewellery.