Last updated: 04:21 PM ET, Sun August 09 2015

Thai Tour Guides Go On Strike to Protest Illegal Guides

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | August 09, 2015

Thai Tour Guides Go On Strike to Protest Illegal Guides

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

A group of 200 Chinese-speaking Thai tour guides in the Phuket province can no longer tolerate the presence of illegally operating Chinese guides and have gone on strike, The Phuket News reported. This has spurred the local Ministry of Tourism (MoTS) to promise action against such interlopers.

This past Thursday, 30 of them, all members of the Chinese-Thai Guide Association, staged a march to the Phuket Ministry of Tourism to present a formal complaint to office director Santi Pawai along with a demand to definitively resolve the issue. The general strike started Thursday and is slated to last until Wednesday, August 12.

Nonphuree Phattarakunakorn, 49, the leader of the strikers, explained their side of the grievance to The Phuket News:

“For the past six months, Chinese tour companies have been sneaking in their own tour guides and allowing illegal tour guides to work in Phuket without any concern for tourism laws and regulations.

“Even worse, these illegal tour guides have no knowledge of Thai culture. They are destroying Thailand’s tourism image as they conduct tours,” he said.

“These illegal guides are costing Thais more and more jobs in Phuket and in other provinces … we want the authorities to hear our voice and help preserve the legal right for Thai tour guides in accordance with the Tourism Act 2008.”

Phattarakunakorn dismissed the claim by Chinese tour companies that there aren’t enough Chinese-speaking Thai tour guides available. “This is not true,” he said. “We have more than 2,500 guides in our Chinese-Thai Guide Association today, which is more than enough to cover the tour guides’ duty on the island.”

He also said to The Phuket News that the Chinese tour companies “claim that the Thai guides available do not speak Chinese proficiently enough to serve their tours.”

Pawai asserted to The Phuket News that the Phuket MoTS office is, “doing all we can to suppress illegal tour guides and we are clearly enforcing every aspect of the Tourism Act 2008,” noting the job of tour guide “is an occupation reserved for Thais by law.”

Those caught guiding illegally face immediate banishment from the country. “From now on, any persons arrested for working illegally as tour guides will be deported and their names added to the (Immigration Bureau’s) blacklist so to ensure they can never return to Thailand ever again,” Pawai said to The Phuket News.

As for tour companies employing illegal tour guides, Pawai said these businesses would face suspension or lose their right to operate altogether.

Pawai warned, “If you want to be in the tourism business, you must follow the rules and regulations of the Tourism Act.” 

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