The government has already apologised to Beijing, which was satisfied with Thai authorities’ handling of the matter, Gen Prawit said yesterday (Oct 3).
The security guard involved in the incident with the tourist at Don Mueang airport has been fired, the deputy prime minister said, adding the incident was a “personal matter”.
The altercation, videoed by another Chinese tourist, occurred inside the airport last Thursday. The clip was posted on Facebook and drew fierce criticism of the guard.
The clip showed the guard and the Chinese man quarrelling before the guard shoved him and swung his arm wildly, as if trying to punch the tourist in the face. He missed and another security guard intervened.
The 109-second video was widely shared and caused a panicky reaction from the government.
The Chinese tourist had been denied entry because he did not have proof of a ticket home.
Gen Prawit said Chinese tourists to Thailand were well cared for and everything had gone smoothly before the deadly boat accident in Phuket in July and the Don Mueang airport incident.
The government has been trying to contain the damage to the tourism sector caused by the capsize of the dive boat Phoenix, which sank during a storm off the Phuket coast on July 5, killing 47 Chinese tourists.
Also yesterday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stressed the need to boost safety for tourists to restore their confidence. He admitted a string of negative incidents had hurt the country’s tourism sector.
“We have to be patient and try to restore the country’s good image,” Gen Prayut said during an inspection trip to Lamphun in the North of the country.
Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, the newly appointed Immigration Bureau commissioner, said he had met officials from five airports – Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, Phuket, Krabi, and Samui – to discuss measures to prevent Chinese tourists suffering bad experiences.
Maj Gen Surachate also talked about reports of bribes during the process of issuing visas on arrival to Chinese tourists, admitting some had been asked to pay ‘tips’ to speed up the process of filling out immigration forms.
He said Chinese and Thai tour operators asked tourists for tips and gave them to immigration officers to help things go more smoothly.
“But from now on, I have ordered immigration officers not to receive tips, and asked airport directors to hold meetings with tour operators to tell them not to ask for ‘tips’ from tourists,” Maj Gen Surachate said.
‘No Tips’ stickers written in English and Chinese were pasted onto visa-on-arrival counters at all international airports in Thailand to assure tourists they will not have to pay tips.
Maj Gen Surachate warned immigration officers not to take any additional money apart from the visa fee or they will be punished.
Immigration officers already earn overtime so there is no need for them to receive tips, he said. “Anything that risks violating the law must be stopped,” he said.
He added that some tour operators who asked for tips from tourists ended up keeping the money instead of giving it to immigration officers.
Meanwhile, the Phuket Tourism Association has warned the number of Chinese tour groups arriving in Phuket is down by half on safety worries and a major effort is needed to restore confidence and woo them back.
Association president Phumkit Raktae-ngam said the Phoenix boat tragedy had a major impact on Chinese people and had put them off visiting Phuket.
“About 50% of the tour groups are not arriving. Chinese tourists have stopped visiting Phuket because they are worried about their safety,” Mr Phumkit said.
“The problem must be solved at its root cause. In the meantime, there has been no progress in salvaging the boat.”
The government needs to employ more staff to ensure public safety and communicate better with Chinese visitors, Mr Phumkit added.
With increased guarantees over their safety, Chinese tour groups will likely return within six months, he said.
Read original story here.