At least six dead after tourist ferry sinks off Thai resort: Police

BANGKOK - At least six passengers including three foreigners died after a tourist ferry sank on Sunday off the Thai resort of Pattaya, police said.

"There are six dead - three Thais and three foreigners," a police official told AFP, adding the rescue effort was continuing because of fears passengers may still be trapped inside the stricken vessel.

There was no immediate reports of the number of injured or missing, but local media said dozens of ambulances had been called to Pattaya's beachfront to handle casualties being plucked from the water.

The ferry sank on Sunday afternoon near Koh Larn, a small island off the Pattaya coast popular with daytrippers.

A Pattaya Tourist Police spokesman said there were around 100 passengers on the boat, which ran into engine trouble at around 5pm local time (1100 GMT).

Thailand drew 22 million tourists last year, but is struggling to shake off a reputation for lax safety standards after a series of fatal incidents.

Four people died in a nightclub fire in August 2012 on the party island of Phuket, while there have also been several high-profile cases of foreigners being murdered in recent months.

In recent years the kingdom's tourist-friendly image as "the Land of Smiles" has also been tarnished by political violence and devastating floods.

Renowned for its racy nightlife and cheap accommodation, Pattaya is one of Thailand's most popular resort areas and has become wildly popular as package holiday destination for Russians.