Members of the Lanna tourist guide association call on the Tourism and Sports Ministry in Bangkok to intervene after they were cheated by Chinese operators into paying money in advance for expenses and not repaid. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

The Lanna tourist guide association has asked the Tourism and Sports Ministry to be lenient with its members who fell victim to a Chinese tour operator.

Its operators stand accused of violating a law by doing a joint business with the company.

Twenty tourist guides were cheated by their Chinese partner out of money worth 3 million baht, but instead of receiving help, they face charges, the association said.

The Chiang Mai-based association wants the minister to “reconsider” enforcing the tourism business and guide law to give fair treatment to its members, association chief Manop Sae-Chia said as he sent a petition to the ministry yesterday.

The 20 guides were asked by the Chinese company to pay money in advance for expenses while it took Chinese visitors to travel around Chiang Mai. It promised to pay back the money later.

By law, tourist guides are prohibited from paying money or offering benefits to tourist operators or other people.

“But these guides had to do it out of necessity,” Mr Manop claimed.

Advance payments are a problem that have plagued local tourism for more than 10 years, he said. Chinese companies usually sell tour packages at low prices and ask local guides to pay for other bills incurred here.

The tourist guides had previously worked with this Chinese tour operator without problems, but in March this year, the company suddenly said it needed to shut down and payments would not be made to settle the debt, he said.

Mr Manop said he believed it was the tourist guides who were not treated fairly in this case.

In the long run, authorities should consider amending the law to make it more flexible and allow tourist guides to self-regulate themselves.

Tourism Department chief Anan Wongbencharat said he could not assure the victims of leniency as the accusation has been already lodged with police.

This case gives other tourist guides a warning against any payment deals.

“A guide’s only duty is to give information,” Mr Anan said.

News Reporter

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