PHUKET – Ms.Thanyarat Atchariyachai, a former chairwoman of the Senate committee on tourism, has accuded local police and state officials in Phuket of exploiting legal loopholes to extort money from foreign employees and migrant workers.
Ms. Atchariyachai said she has received numerous complaints from people affected by misconduct of state officials. She said a Scandinavian tour agency that brings tours to the island informed her that their foreign staff with work permits were harassed by officials, particularly in tourist venues such as Kata, Karon and Patong beaches.
Officials apparently approached the foreign staff, asking to check their work permits, usually on Fridays. Even though the foreigners insisted they had valid permits, the officials threatened to take them to a police station for detention pending interrogation, according to the Thairath Online.
Ms Thanyarat said officials chose Fridays as it would be difficult for the foreigners to raise bail on a weekend, and the prospect of spending a weekend in jail frightened them. If they didn’t want to go to the station, they were asked to pay 20,000 baht each.
She said there were also cases of registered migrant workers who were threatened with arrest for working outside the areas specified in their documents. Officials allegedly demanded 5,000 baht each from the workers in exchange for dropping the charges.
Ms Thanyarat also said she had received a complaint from a tour agency about bribe-taking at Phuket airport.
Long queues are common at the busy airport, and the tour agency claimed that officials asked travellers to pay 200 baht if they wanted their waiting time shortened.
Ms Thanyarat said she had brought the complaints to the attention of high-level officials in the province. The problems, if left unaddressed, would tarnish the reputation of Phuket, she said.