Disputing Al Jazeera’s Report on Russian Presence
Phuket’s provincial police commander, Pol Maj Gen Sermphan Sirikong, along with representatives from tourism-related agencies, recently held a briefing to address claims made in an Al Jazeera report. The report, which has circulated widely on social media since Wednesday, alleges that an increasing number of Russian tourists are taking jobs and operating businesses illegally on the island.
According to Al Jazeera, the influx of Russians has caused a significant rise in real estate prices and resulted in them taking jobs from Thais, such as taxi pick-ups. The report also insinuated that Russian criminals are now residing on the island.
Phuket Police’s Stance on Criminal Allegations
Pol Maj Gen Sermphan Sirikong has refuted these allegations, stating that there have only been three cases involving Russian criminals in the past five years. He further explained that most cases were business disputes and none were associated with mafia groups.
Pol Col Thanet Sukchai, superintendent of Phuket Immigration police, affirmed that immigration police are collaborating with relevant agencies on the island to address issues related to foreigners violating Thai laws.
Statistics on Russian Offenders in Phuket
From January to August, Thai police took legal action against 635 foreigners, 78 of whom were Russians. Among the Russian offenders, only six were caught working without a permit, as reported by Pol Col Thanet Sukchai.
The provincial governor has also instructed the Damrongdhama Centre to create a Traffy Fondue mobile application, allowing people to file complaints online regarding this issue.
Phuket’s Appeal to Russian Tourists
Thanet Tantipiriyakit, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, noted that most tourists on the island come from Russia. The number of Russian tourists has increased by approximately 80% compared to 2019.
From January to August, Phuket saw around 2.46 million foreign tourists, of which 487,504 were Russians. This increased Russian presence on the island coincides with economic turmoil and uncertainty in their home country due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Tantipiriyakit also mentioned that most Russian tourists have short stays in Thailand, while 9,275 (accounting for 1.9% of overall Russian tourists) reside on the island on long-term visas.