Phuket Pirate Vendors Protest About Corruption at Police HQ -Tourists Terrified

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                   Phuket Pirate Vendors Protest About Corruption at Police HQ; Trapped Tourists 'Terrified'

From the '' look we have all ready paid the Police Leave us alone '' Dept.  ;D

 July 20, 2011

PHUKET: Tourists have been caught up in a dispute between Phuket pirate goods vendors and police - and the vendors are accusing the police of corruption.

The conflict flared into the open about noon today when some 30 vendors protested at Phuket's Police headquarters and accused Phuket's Police Commander, Major General Pekad Tantipong, of treating them unfairly.

''Why arrest people only in Karon-Kata?'' asked one placard-waver. ''Generals of Region 8, please help us. General Pekad applies double-standards, not justice.''

The protesters then rode across Phuket City to Provincial Hall, Phuket's administrative heart, where they asked to complain directly to Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha. By this time, the protest had grown to 200 people.

Major General Pekad was not on Phuket today. Ironically he was visiting Region 8 southern police headquarters in Surat Thani.

Tourists have been telephoning Phuketwan to say how they have been caught up in the dispute - and terrified when vendors at KT Plaza, a shophouse market on the beach road in Karon, hurriedly shut up their shops to avoid police officers allegedly intent on collecting corrupt payments.

Finn Hinrik Rajala, 29, told Phuketwan yesterday: ''My wife and I were out shopping in the market about 7pm on Sunday when all hell broke loose. The vendor in the shop brought down the shutter in a hurry, trapping us insde, then turned out the lights.

''He told us to be quiet. I asked him: 'Is it the police.' He said: 'Yes it is.' We were kept in the dark for about 15 minutes. They wouldn't let us go.

''Some other tourists were in tears. My wife Saara and I were both scared for our safety. This sort of thing shouldn't happen on Phuket.''

The experience of the Finnish tourists mirrored that of Australian visitor Ros Glencross, from Coffee Camp in New South Wales, who was unexpectedly trapped on a similar shopping expedition a few weeks ago. She related her experience to Phuketwan, but at the time, the vendors she spoke to blamed the cause of the sudden closure on ''Bangkok gangsters.''

Today's protest shed light on the cause of the vendors' anguish. They claim they have paid off police, yet are still being arrested, unlike similar vendors in the next beach suburb, Patong.

Some of the vendors are Nepalese, perceived as easy prey for pay-offs.

Others are Thai, and employ Burmese and others to sell copygood souvenirs. The vendors say they have paid police for ''protection'' yet officers keep coming to arrest them.

The vendors, who did not wish to be identified individually, said there were two groups of Phuket police who appeared to be in dispute about the amount of money collected from vendors for ''protection.''

As a result, they - and an increasing number of Phuket tourists - have been caught in a dark place.

Major General Pekad was unavailable for comment.