DANOK (Thailand): About 1,000 tourists from Malaysia have been stranded here since Friday when their tour buses and vans were prevented from continuing the journey into Thailand.
The tourists were stopped by a group of Thai tour van operators, apparently in protest against the Road Transport Department (RTD) which they claimed had lately been issuing summonses to them and causing them to lose their business.
A check by the New Sunday Times yesterday showed that more than 30 Thai nationals, believed to be tour van operators gathered in front of a hotel about a kilometre from the Thailand Immigration Complex here from 9pm on Friday to stop Malaysia-registered buses and vans ferrying tourists.
The Malaysian vehicle drivers were told to turn back, while the tourists could only proceed to their destinations in Thailand-registered tour vans or buses. Some of the tourists gave in to the demand.
Sources said the Thai tour van operators planned to continue their protest until Tuesday.
A Malaysian bus driver, Phun Chot Lam, 48, said he was carrying 21 tourists from Kuala Lumpur to Hatyai when they were stopped by the group upon leaving the Thailand Immigration Complex about 7am.
"We had no choice but to rent their tour vans for tourists."
He said the charge to carry the tourists from here to Hatyai was between RM110 and RM150 per van. Previously, it was only RM60.
Kedah RTD director Abd Rahman Hussain said yesterday the department had detected several cases of Thai nationals violating the International Circulation Permit (ICP) issued to them.
"The ICP is meant for Thai nationals using private vehicles to enter Malaysia, and not to ferry tourists to and fro. But many were misusing the permit and we have issued summonses to the offenders."
He declined to comment on the protest by the Thai tour van operators.