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The order to make the checks comes direct from Governor Maitri Inthusut, in the wake of the furore over Chalong police officers allegedly targeting the dive industry and extorting money in return for dropping criminal cases over purported irregularities in work permits.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “Tomorrow, we will begin checking the 190 diving instructors and staff in 114 diving companies in Phuket to see if they have work permits or not.”
The checks will continue one day a week until all the companies have been visited, he said.
He added, “I believe that all the work permits issued are correct because there [applicants must provide] many documents to us before we issue a work permit.
“So, tomorrow there will be a check on work permit. We will also offer advice to [dive company foreign staff] on [any limits to what they may or may not do].
“According to the work permit, dive instructors may only teach their customers how to dive correctly; they can’t work as [underwater] tour guide. I’m going to remind them again about this.”
A spokesperson for the Association of Thai Underwater Sports (ATUS) – also speaking on condition of anonymity – said that ATUS is in favour of the checks. “This will help to clarify everything. Then we will know what the facts are.”
This afternoon ATUS representatives are due to meet with Governor Maitri Inthusut.
They will hand him a letter complaining about the alleged extortion by police officers, and asking for his help in ensuring that job descriptions in work permits are clear and allow foreign employees to carry out all their duties.
Meanwhile The Commander of Chalong Police Station has been swapped with his counterpart in Thalang.
The transfer comes partly as a result of the behaviour of some Chalong police being reported to the Deputy Secretary-General of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), Prayong Preeyachitt.
The officers have been accused of extorting money from dive companies and their foreign staff.
Mr Prayong, it is understood, has asked the US Embassy to help in the case by taking evidence from two American victims of the alleged extortion.
Pol Maj Gen Ong’art Peiwruangnon, Commander of Phuket Provincial Police, yesterday (April 1) transferred Col Krittapas Dasintharasorn from Chalong to Thalang and ordered the head of Thalang Police Station, Pol Col Sirisak Wasasiri, to take over in Chalong.
Gen Ong-art told The Phuket News, “I swapped Col Krittapas with Col Sirisak, with immediate effect, to ensure a more proper working performance.”
Asked whether the dive industry problem was behind the transfers, Gen Ong’art said, “Yes, partly. Col Krittapas was unable to control his crew thoroughly, so I think it’s more appropriate to move him to Thalang Police Station. If he performs better there, he will be posted there permanently.
“My orders always depend on justice. To me, the people come first. Any policeman who can’t do his job properly may be moved.
“If the commander is good, there will be no bad police. This move is only an internal administration matter.”
Col Krittapas was not available for comment this morning.