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At a one-day conference for tourism businesses organised on Wednesday (August 27) it was announced that a planned crackdown on illegal tour guides and tour companies skating around the law, scheduled to begin yesterday (August 28) has been postponed until early next month.
“This conference is aimed at educating all tour operators about the Tourism Business and Guide Act of 2008, and to inform them in advance that I plan to strictly enforce this law,” said Santi Pawai, director of the office and also recently appointed as registrar of the Southern Office of Tourism Business and Guide Registration.
“[After this conference] no one will be able to claim that they do not know the law,” he warned. “Never mind what has happened in the past, we will all start together now with a clean slate.
“Business owners will be responsible for looking after the guides [they hire]. We will be more strict about [guide] registration cards and we will not allow guide who are registered [outside Phuket] to operate here,” he added.
“All guides will be told that there must be no more protests. If there are, we will no longer support the protesters,” Mr Santi noted.
He did not mention that protests, such as the one against illegal Chinese guides in June this year, are in any case illegal under martial law, which stipulates that no more than five people may gather together in a public place.
Asked about relaxing the restrictions on foreigners working as tour guides – which was suggested by coup leader Gen Prayuth Chan-Ocha in his weekly national TV broadcast last Friday (August 22) because it “can lead to a shortage of … guides” – Mr Santi answered, “As long as I get no official letter telling me to relax the rules, I will go on enforcing the law as usual. If I don’t, I could be charged with dereliction of duty.”
The crackdown on illegal guides by Tourism & Sport officials, backed by police, tourist police and navy troops, was postponed, Mr Santi said, “because we want more officers to help us to do it.
“Officers will begin with the big tour companies and check all the details in their registration papers. If the reality does no match with the registration documents, we will suspend them for six months,” he added.
“If we come across unlicensed illegal tour operators while we are carrying out our inspections, they will be barred permanently from registration, which means they will never again be able to do tourism business.”