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Indictment creates bad image for thai tourism

As word of US prosecutors' charges against former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan rapidly spread worldwide, Thai tourism associations and hotel operators cried foul over the negative implications for the local industry.




They blamed the Thai government's inefficient law enforcement, saying such corruption could have been prevented long before it made headlines around the globe.

Association of Thai Travel Agents president Apichart Sankary said the case was attracting negative attention from foreign countries. It is also expected to damage the Kingdom's future credibility when attempting to make agreements.

He said foreign tourism authorities and operators might think twice about sealing any further deals with Thailand.

"This has already damaged our reputation. We cannot be sure foreigners still trust in Thailand or that we can conduct business with them as easily as in the past," Apichart said, adding that the TAT in particular dealt with many foreign entities.

Juthamas Siriwan was TAT governor from 2002 to 2006. Following Gerald and Patricia Green's conviction in California for bribing Thai officials to allow them to run the Bangkok International Film Festival, which violated the US Foreign Business Practices Act, Juthamas and her daughter were indicted in that state. They were charged with accepting Bt60 million worth of bribes from the two Americans.

Apichart said there should be a mechanism to educate Thai government officers as to what could be illegal when dealing with foreign partners.

Federation of Thai Tourism Association spokesman Charoen Wangananont called on the government to pay greater attention to budget disbursement, in order to prevent corruption.

"I don't think this problem can destroy the overall tourism industry, because it is a personal issue involving Juthamas alone. However, it hurts the government's credibility and image, because the case has been raised and prosecuted by foreign officials, not ours," Charoen said.

Dusit International CEO Chanin Donavanik said the case involving Juthamas was considered crucial, because no Thai official had ever been prosecuted or jailed in the US before.

He questioned why the government had not been aware of the allegation and said if anyone did know, no action had been taken, nor had anyone been arrested.

Chanin said Thailand's problems stemmed completely from its politicians, who always sought benefits and were prepared to remove anyone opposing them. Therefore, officials who do get promoted are often corrupt and have poor attitudes.

"This highlights the inefficiency of the administration, as well as the country's weak law enforcement," he said.

Chanin suggested the government carefully monitor each agency's budget disbursal, but admitted such a task was more difficult than it appeared at first glance.

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