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An angry meeting of tourism operators on Koh Samet yesterday said there was no mafia in Rayong and none on the island.
And they challenged the head of the national parks to name names saying that spreading unfounded rumors about the island is only damaging tourism, reports Thairath.
Some operators – notably jetskis – said that tourism had been hit drastically since word about the mafia was spread. While others claimed that tourist arrivals were down 80-90%.
The claims came as the military prepared to claim back the island after after what they see as years of corruption, encroachment and illegal activity – much of which was openly denied at yesterday’s crisis meeting of operators at the Khao Laem Ya – Koh Samet local office on the island.
Officials have served notice about encroachment to some two dozen businesses. Half have accepted that they have encroached and will move but the other half are contesting that they are doing anything wrong.
A memorandum of understanding about Phakjira Thongkhao-orn of Sai Kaew Villa 2 led the way saying that the idea that mafia were controlling the island was a myth and had caused tourist arrivals to drop drastically by 80-90%.
Representatives of the jetski businesses – that have effectively been told to clear off from the national park – were equally vociferous.
They said the idea that mafia was in control was “rubbish” and even “funny”. They said that virtually no tourists were coming now and it was deathly quiet on the island.
They said that claims about the mafia running the place had only caused trouble.
Meanwhile boat operators claimed they were doing nothing illegal. It was stated that 100 speedboats and other boats had permission from the harbor authorities to operate.
Last week it was stated that only one had the proper permission and speedboat operations would be shut down along with most of the jetties they use.
Speakers at the meeting called on the chief of Thailand’s National Parks authority Nattaphon Rattanaphon to stop spreading rumors about the mafia.
They said he should name mafia figures and people with influence so they can be prosecuted rather than spread ideas in the news that had a terrible effect on tourism and the image of the island.
They claimed the governor of the province Surasak Jaroensirichot agrees with them and said that he and other officials have been working hard over the last few years to rid the province of dark figures involved in corruption.