First tourist court to open in Pattaya tomorrow

Thailand's first tourist court will open tomorrow in the popular beach resort city of Pattaya as part of the government's move to reassure travellers of their safety while visiting the country.

From 4.30pm to 8.30pm, foreign tourists can come and lodge complaints, especially over unfair services and personal security. Consideration of cases will be cut to one day for uncomplicated disputes from the usual six months, Wirat Chinwinigkul, secretary-general of the Judiciary, said yesterday.

The specialised court will encourage negotiations between parties. Most of the cases are about consumer protection, so it is easier to reach a compromise. If it's a serious issue, the case will be transferred to the regular court. There will be capable officials speaking foreign languages to help.

Six more night courts are planned - Pathum Wan district for the Silom area and Dusit district for khao san in Bangkok, Krabi, Samui, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Those tourist destinations have faced various problems, especially cheating by operators.

The Pattaya court would be a pilot project. It is expected to take up speedboat services, which is one of the serious issues corroding the country's tourism image. It's also related to criminal cases.

Yesterday, four parties - police, prosecutors, the courts of justice and the Tourism Ministry - signed an agreement to set up the court and work together to help take care of foreign holidaymakers.

The court will also be responsible for looking after Thai tourists and scrutinising the role of tourism operators in providing fair services to tourists.

The ministry should set up a department to handle cases because some tourists have to go home before a ruling is handed down, he said.

In the future, Thailand should enact legislation to regulate the industry, like in France, because tourism is an important industry strengthening the national economy. It has grown rapidly, but existing laws cannot keep up, he added.

Tourism Minister Somsak Pureesrisak said it's a good sign for the country's tourism industry. The night court would help secure the industry's role in the long term, especially in achieving the target of Bt2 trillion in tourism revenue in 2015.

The ministry has made a big effort to standardise the industry, launching measures and regulations to crack down on scams. Especially Phuket needs a clean-up. The resort island is overrun by illegal services and gangsters.