Phuket acts to clean up jet-ski woes

The other day I posted some links to the first episode of Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand. Well, it appears that Thai officials saw the program too and they’re none too happy. Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob has written to embassies trying to explain that the reason they haven’t cracked down before is because they never could get any proof it was happening. But now with video proof they are going to come down hard on offenders.

Now, to say that they could never gather any proof is a joke. Really. Everyone and their mother knows about this scam. Even the guy who came to the soldier’s aid said he gets these complaints all the time.

But you really can’t complain if something makes the Thai police and government actually protect and serve. As Phuket’s economy is decimated by the global financial meltdown they can’t afford any more black eyes. While some tourism has bounced back Bangkok and Pattaya, Phuket hasn’t been as lucky.

Police have arrested the jet ski operator JJ who pulled a gun on the soldiers. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that because he tried to be such a bad-ass in the video. He was a big showoff for the cameras. Now he can spend a few months or years in jail for his stupidity.

By the way, there has been much speculation that the JJ scene was staged or that it wasn’t even real. The producer/director of this series spoke out on The Farang Speaks 2 Much claiming that none of the footage is scripted or staged. He’s even offered to allow people to view the unedited footage.

I had heard of jet ski scams – a fight that took place and was captured on camera in Chaweng, Samui – and I asked JJ if he would take part in our filming to tell his side of the story. I explained that we wanted to show both sides, that undoubtedly in my view foreign tourists must damage jet skis, there must be genuine cases. Based on this understanding JJ agreed to take part in our programme. He also understood that our primary focus was British tourists in Thailand. JJ agreed to call us when he had a case which would illustrate that not all jet ski hire outfits are scam artists. That case turned out to be the Royal Marines who we’d also been following around Phuket during the visit of their ship HMS Bulwark. And when the call came JJ even sent a motorcycle and sidecar to pick us up. I have the photo of me in transit. We had a good working relationship with both the Royal Marines Military Police and JJ. In the end – when JJ called our fixer with the case – the two parties ended up coming together, and the rest is, well, all over Bravo and the internet. I simply filmed what unfolded (albeit with flair and agility 🙂

If anyone is still of the opinion that the scene with JJ is faked then I will today provide links to the raw, uncut footage from the events of that day and our full interviews with JJ – before and after. If JJ must face trial by TV then at least let it be as fair as possible. For those who seem to profess a knowledge of the reality of ‘reality’ TV production – and I’ve lectured at university in it – comparing the unedited material with the broadcast version will be illustrative.

Here is the full story from The Nation regarding the crackdown on jet ski operators and what has since happened to JJ.

Phuket acts to clean up jet-ski woes
Published on September 13, 2009

Video footage posted on YouTube showing a jet-ski rental operator threatening a British tourist with a gun would tarnish Thailand’s reputation, whether the incident was real or fake, Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob said yesterday.

Wichai said he had written to embassies of several countries whose tourists complained about jet-ski operators in Phuket, to try to explain the problem.

Police have arrested a man seen with a gun in the video clip, but it is not yet clear if the incident was real or a stunt for a reality show in a foreign country.

Wichai said provincial authorities had received several complaints about jet-ski operators extorting money from foreign tourists from China, Japan and Australia, as well as some Thais, even before the YouTube footage.

He said they were trying to solve the problem but there was no clear evidence until the video emerged. Officials worked with police to arrest the person shown in the footage and he was now in custody at Kathu police station. He was reported to have confessed.

“The man’s action, whether it’s real or set-up for a show, is not right, especially if it was a set-up because it can be considered an intention to severely damage Phuket and Thai tourism,” the governor said.

Officials called a meeting of jet-ski operators in Phuket and related agencies last week to set rules for jet-ski renting services. They plan to register and record the work history of jet-ski operators.

They will limit the number to jet-skis to 219 and try to get operators to have insurance to prevent problems in the event of rented jet-skis getting damaged.

Some 40 jet-ski operators and insurance companies were invited to try to set conditions for insurance next week, Wichai said, noting that this was a preferred solution.

“I’m not against them making a decent living out of this sport, but they must do it right and get into the insurance system. They can charge the insurance fee in the renting fee, say the usual Bt1,500 per 30 minutes could rise to Bt1,600.”

Officials would also look into reports that some operators use Burmese workers as jet-ski boys.

Phuket had sent a letter explaining the problem to various embassies, initially focusing on countries whose citizens had filed complaints about jet-ski operators in Phuket such as the UK, Australia, China and Japan, Wichai said.

They would check with people who wrote complaints to see if the arrested man was the same person who extorted money from them. Officials would discuss the situation with legal experts about what they could do.

He hoped that efforts by the province and local agencies would restore tourists’ confidence.

“This problem had been here a long time but the lack of evidence deterred authorities from doing anything much about it until now. This is the first time the allegation materialised,” he said adding that they would seek the maximum penalty for offences – to warn others not to try such acts.

There were similar problems with car and motorbike rental businesses and some people’s illegal acts were hurting honest business operators, he said.

1 thought on “Phuket acts to clean up jet-ski woes”

  1. How long has these scams been going on? It’s about time they do something about it. Why would these guys risk it anyway? Won’t they be easily identified and caught? I love Phuket and I won’t be missing the jet skis.

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