11 July 2024

Over 60 people, including hoteliers, shop-owners and subscribers to the government’s “We Tour Together” tourism-promotion program, have been arrested by police in Chaiyaphum and Phuket provinces for alleged involvement in a scam to pocket ill-gotten gains from the scheme.

The arrests were the result of coordinated raids by police from the Bangkok-based Crime Suppression Division, following an extensive investigation ordered by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Pol Gen Suwat Chaengyodsuk told a news conference on Wednesday morning.

He said that the focus of the raids was the Natchaya Resort, in Thailand’s northeastern province of Chaiyaphum, which allegedly accepted fake hotel bookings from We Tour Together program subscribers, or through their brokers scattered across Chaiyaphum, Loei, Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Phetchabun and Si Sa Ket.

50 suspects related to the resort in Chaiyaphum were apprehended.

Pol Gen Suwat said the resort has claimed 92,028 room bookings since last July, with each subscriber booking ten rooms, priced at between 1,000-3,000 baht per room per night.

The investigation discovered that check-ins and check-outs did not correspond and that many of the hotel’s customers, who are program subscribers, booked the same rooms every time, said the national police chief.

He also said that the coupons issued by the resort to the customers show unrealistic or excessive spending, adding that damage to the state, in connection with this resort alone, are estimated at about 87 million baht.

In the Phuket case, linked to Thara Patong Hotel, the police chief disclosed that 14 suspects were apprehended, including the owners of the hotel, shop owners who participated in the We Tour Together scheme and brokers, who allegedly exercised the rights to hotel bookings and spending on behalf of the subscribers, adding that as many as 800 people are believed to be involved in this massive scam to cheat the tax payer.

He said the hotel allegedly colluded with tour agencies, which arranged for tour groups, under a three days-two nights package tour, to make fake bookings at the hotel.

Meanwhile, CSD deputy commander Pol Col Anek Taosuparb said some desperate subscribers sold their rights to redeem hotel and food expenses to brokers at just 800-1,000 baht, by giving away their ID cards numbers and SIM cards, which must be used to obtain the refund from the state.

Under the latest We Tour Together scheme, from December 16th to April 30th, each subscriber is entitled to a 40% discount on a hotel room booking, up to 3,000 baht per day for up to 15 nights, plus a food and travel expense coupon of 900 baht per day, of which 40% is refundable. They are also entitled to a 40% discount on air tickets, not exceeding 3,000 baht, but the full amount must be paid first.