The hospitality industry in Phuket is facing a problem with foreign mafia-style gangs becoming increasingly involved in business on the resort island. Industry executives are concerned that foreigners are exploiting laws to run their own businesses while also taking up jobs only legal for local people.
Kata Group Resorts founder, Pramookpisitt Achariyachai, spoke during a recent meeting about tourism issues in the three Andaman provinces of Phuket Krabi and Shang Nga, stating that some foreigners were breaching rules on jobs reserved for Thais.
Businesses currently run by groups of foreigners include taxi services and accommodation, with some foreigners renting villas and condo units abandoned during the Covid-19 pandemic, and then re-renting them out again to their countrymen – and often at highly inflated prices. Mr. Pramookpisitt claimed that they were “mostly Russians”.
He expressed concern that “foreign mafia groups” may take control of the island, similar to what happened in Pattaya a couple of decades ago, and urged Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, to deal with these concerns.
Business owners around the Bangla Road walking street are also complaining about the increase in Russian ‘prostitutes’ that have infiltrated the area and causing problems for the local sex industry.
Mr. Phiphat acknowledged the growing problems and increasing complaints and assured the industry executives that authorities would look into the matter.
“I’m certain most Thais will not tolerate it if foreigners are trying to steal their jobs. Authorities from various agencies will look into the matter as the prime minister has also ordered the Royal Thai Police to crack down on it.”
In addition to the issue of foreign mafia groups, local residents and tourists have also complained about infrastructure shortcomings in the three Andaman provinces.
“These include insufficient public transport, poor quality roads, and excessive traffic congestion, especially in Phuket.
“Low occupancy rates among small-sized hotels in some popular tourism destinations are also a concern even as the tourism economy is starting to revive.”
Many smaller guesthouses and hotels remain closed at this time.
To address these issues, Mr. Phiphat says that the ministry plans to promote the three provinces as the ‘Andaman Triangle’.
“Phuket will be pushed as the centre of the triangle, while Phang Nga and Krabi will be promoted as low-carbon city destinations focused on eco-tourism. The ministry will also promote Khlong Thom district in Krabi as a spa destination because of the famous natural hot springs in the area.”