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Chinese hires rile Phuket tour guides

Scuffle erupts as chinesespeaking thais protest hiring of unlicensed foreigners

SOME 100 CHINESE-SPEAKING Thai tour guides rallied in downtown Phuket yesterday demanding a crackdown on unlicensed Chinese guides who are reportedly stealing their jobs.

The group rallied in front of a tour company at the Phun Phol Night Plaza at 10am and carried placards with messages including "Thais have no job because foreign tour guides took away their jobs" and "Thai children would starve to death when foreigners run the city".

The group, led by Nonphuree Pattarakhunakorn, protested against some tour companies hiring the unlicensed Chinese guides and against Chinese tourists who took on jobs as unlicensed guides. The group also claimed many unlicensed guides acted like thugs and had fistfights with Thai guides. About 10 police were present to keep peace and order.

Nonphuree said they wanted the company to stop hiring illegal guides and submit them to legal action, as the problem had caused many licensed Chinese-speaking Thai tour guides to be unemployed.

A company executive came to receive the group's complaint, which also included concern over the foreign guides feeding misinformation about culture to tourists and about the company's recruiting policy.

Earlier on Monday, the issue caused scuffles to break out in front of Wichit police station, between Chinese-speaking Thai tour guides and Chinese nationals whom they accused of taking their jobs, the Phuket Gazette reported.

Some 100 Thai guides gathered at the station in support of Suraphol Saelub, 24; Somchai Saetung, 39; and Ja Saema, also 39, who face charges of attacking Chinese national Ta Leng, 34, who reportedly worked for the tour company. The fight allegedly took place in a restaurant near Wat Nakaram on Sunday. Wichit Police Superintendent Chawalit Phetsipear told the Phuket Gazette that Leng filed a complaint that he was attacked by six Thai tour guides.

Police invited Leng and three men he accused to the station on Monday for questioning. Tempers boiled over as Leng and his colleagues left after the meeting - the angry guides accusing Leng of working as an illegal guide and questioned the ethics of his employer.

"Illegal guides are a serious problem affecting us. Working as a guide is a job reserved [by law] for Thais, but many tour companies hire Chinese nationals as guides," Chaifu Saelee, a 43-year-old Chinese-speaking tour guide, told the Phuket Gazette.

"They are taking our jobs and we are left with no work, so we would like officials to help find a solution to this problem," he said. To bring the issue to the attention of Phuket's top-ranking official once again, tour guides will march from the Clock Tower Circle to the City Hall on Friday to hand a formal complaint to Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut, Chaifu said.




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