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Fraudsters demanding 40% kickbacks from Pattaya hotels to designate them Covid-19 quarantine centers

Like the 'music copyright police' of yore, scammers have no connection to legitimate authorities, government insists

Grand Bella Hotel Pattaya Field Hospital Coronavirus
Pattaya's Grand Bella Hotel was transformed into a coronavirus field hospital.

Thai fraudsters looking to turn Pattaya’s tourism crisis into personal opportunity are demanding 40 percent kickbacks to ensure closed resorts are chosen as government-sanctioned coronavirus quarantine centers.

Pattaya City Councilman Thanet Supornsahatrangsi confirmed Saturday that unidentified people claiming to represent a state enterprise have been approaching hoteliers with assurances that they be guaranteed a slot on the government’s roster of quarantine centers for Thais returning from overseas – if the hotel operator pays them 40 percent of the fee the government pays the hotel.

No one has been dumb enough to accept the offer so far Thanet said, saying the Thai Hotels Association Eastern Region, which he used to head, has asked Government House to investigate.

Government spokesman Narumon Pinyosinwat and Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration spokeswoman Dr Panprapa Yongtrakul both insisted those who approached hotels do not represent the government and that the CCSA does not send representatives to solicit hotels. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered an immediate investigation into scam.

The government is paying hotels, such as Chor Cher – The Green Residence in Samut Prakan where 34 Thais who returned from India on Friday were sent, 1,000 baht per person per day.

With 80,000 returned Thais already placed in quarantine and tens of thousands yet to arrive, filling up shut-down hotels with coronavirus suspects on the surface might seem to be good business. But Thanet said most Pattaya operators did the math and decided it wasn’t worth it.

For starters, for that 1,000 rate, a day the hotels must provide three meals a day to those quarantined. The hotel also must employ staff to care for them, plus continually clean and disinfect the facility – especially if it hopes to attract tourists who could learn it had been a disease weigh station.

Thanet also noted that opening up for government service would disqualify employees from receiving government unemployment benefits that currently covers up to half of their salaries, even if they work just one 14-day quarantine shift.

Only a select group of Pattaya hotels even qualify for the quarantine center list, Thanet said. To do so, the facility must have 200 non-carpeted rooms, separate air conditioners for each room and hold all state licenses.

To date, about 10,000 rooms in Chonburi have been used, Thanet said. The THAE sent a list of 20 Pattaya hotels to the government for consideration, but none have yet been inspected, he said.

Ekasit Ngampichet, president of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association, also confirmed the scam, noting that the supposedly well-connected grifters said a hotel would be placed on the list even if it didn’t meet qualifications.

Pattaya is no stranger to mysterious men in suits showing up demanding kickbacks. For years supposed “music copyright police” would hit up bars playing their own CDs and demand bribes to make their copyright violations go away.