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Led by ATUS President Mr Ronnachai Jindapon, Saturday evening’s (March 22) meeting brought together several diving businesses on the island while some shared their stories of police corruption despite proper paperwork. “We know that the problem is happening but it seems that only a few people reported it to us. I want [businesses] to inform the ATUS so that we can know what’s happening and help them solve the problem.
A victim of police bribery told The Phuket News, “We specialise in technical diving and we have a registered business, a TAT license, we have TAT registration, work permits, everything is in order. But still the police came to our shop and asked us to go to the police station at the back of Chalong police station. They said pay B20,000 and you’re free to go. And we paid because we’re just afraid.”
There are many more frustrated victims who raised their hands at the meeting and told their stories.
ATUS encourage dive companies and individuals who were harassed to write down their problems with the corruption. The associations said these documents will be brought to the vice commissioner to consider and help solve the police problem.
Mr Ronnachai revealed that a police taskforce has been set up and will visit the victims to point out which officers went to their shops and asked for big money. But the companies have to be strong enough to make thing right, he said, and not be afraid to point out those police who have been demanding money.
“If we can make one cop afraid of this, the rest of them will also be afraid to rip us off. I contacted the Deputy Commander of Phuket and he wants to know if you all could recognize the officers [who asked for bribes] faces and point them out.”
He also added that the diving companies have to make sure that they are doing everything legally because the ATUS does not know who specifically has a work permit. Since these permits are the responsibility of the business, the ATUS will not help if police catch people working without one.
“It’s now become a problem whether it is correct or not for foreigners to be diving as it’s not stated in the working permit. We will contact the governor to discuss making the working permit completely clear for everybody.”
Mr Pongsawan Sathatam, ATUS’ legal counsel, revealed that there is going to be a discussion between the association and the Labour Office to clarify in the work permits if divers can work legally outside the office. “Usually the Labor Office will not state too many words in work permit. I think police can understand this if they want, but I think in many cases, they just want some advantage from these people.
Mr Ronnachai suggested that the diving companies register to become members of ATUS so that it will be easier for the association to look after them. In many cases, businesses don’t want to pay to be a member but when they have problem, they still ask for the association’s help. The ATUS will also consult with the governor, the Phuket Department of Employment and local police on what steps to take to solve the problem, in addition to clarifying the work permit, Mr Pongsawan added.