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  1. #11
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    Re: Diving sites to be closed for a month from today 21 Jan 2011


  2. #12
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    Re: Diving sites to be closed for a month from today 21 Jan 2011

    Marine parks in South 'a huge source of graft'
    By Janjira Pongrai,
    Pongphon Sarnsamak
    The Nation
    Published on January 25, 2011


    Officials pocket Bt1 billion a year in admission fees

    Operators of diving tours and tour guides have exposed corruption at marine national parks in the Andaman Sea.

    Graft in the admission fee system is believed to have cost the government Bt1 billion in lost revenue each year.

    "The problem has been going on for many years already," the owner of a famous diving-tour company in Phuket said yesterday, on condition of anonymity.

    He said Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island attracted between 50 and 100 boats a day from November 1 to May 30. This meant the number of tourists could be as many as 1,000 per site per day.

    The admission fee was Bt400 per person but corrupt officials offered a 30-per-cent discount if operators did not ask for receipts.

    "We have alerted relevant authorities before but this corrupt practice continues."

    Without the corruption, he said money from admission fees could have been spent on proper management of natural resources.

    Some 15 diving sites in seven marine national parks in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand were closed to tourists last Friday because of coral bleaching on popular reefs.

    A tour guide, who also spoke on condition that his name was not revealed, said he felt bad about the graft in admission fees at the national parks.

    "But I had to do what the tour operators and these officials demanded." He described how park officials refused once to let his tourists get out of the boat because they were unhappy with the amount of money put inside an envelope prepared by the tour operator.

    "I had to put more cash into that envelope," he disclosed.

    An informed source at the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry admitted corruption existed at dive attractions in the South.

    "If you look at records, you will find that no one can serve as the chiefs of the marine national parks in the Andaman Sea for long. They get transferred out pretty soon because of complaints filed against them," the source said.

    The source said politicians overseeing the ministry usually sent corrupt officials there because the marine parks could generate a lot of money.

    "Some officials have offered to pay between Bt5 million and Bt10 million in instalments to politicians for top posts at the parks," the source revealed.

    THE NATION

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