By The Nation
The Online Travel Agent (OTA) system is the root of the problem, said Udom Srimahachota, vice-president of the Thai Hotels Association. Only 197 hotels in Hua Hin have proper licences while some OTA websites have posted 699 Hua Hin hotels for people to book daily-rented accommodation, said Udom.
Authorities should require the OTA post the hotels’ licence numbers in their ads, so that consumers could feel confident of the facilities' safety standards, said Udom. His group has urged Tourist Police Bureau deputy chief Pol Maj-General Surachate Hakparn to crack down on illegal hotels in Hua Hin to prevent problems for tourists.
Following a May 15 complaint from provincial administrators accusing 10 hotels of forging state-issued documents, using the forged papers and illegally operating hotel businesses, the hotels have continued operating.
As bureaucratic red tape has posed a challenge in quickly shuttering the hotels, Panlop said he has set up a committee to look for a way to close them. He said the authorities had not issued licences as the hotels have claimed and was confident the investigation would bring the truth to light.
“Hua Hin Municipality and Tambon Hin Lek Fai Administrative Organisation can order a ban for hotels to use these buildings, if the buildings were modified illegally or used for purposes other than for personal residences as stated in the building permits,” Panlop said.
He conceded that this has been a longstanding issue in the province.
Panlop said he instructed all municipalities and tambon administrative organisations to check on buildings in their jurisdictions to discover if any had been turned into a hotel without proper permission, and to suspend such building use pending an investigation.
A source said the province’s fact-finding panel had reported to the Interior Ministry about 10 hotels that used fake hotel licences with forged signature of a deputy provincial governor who had retired in 2015, resulting in a serious disciplinary probe against four accused officials.
The four unnamed persons, who served at Hua Hin during 2014-2015, also faced a police complaint over charges related to state-document forgery. Those officials are a former district chief officer who now serves in another province, a district clerk, a former district chief officer in charge of administrative affairs who now serves at the Anti-Money Laundering Office and a district office typist – the latter of whom had implicated the others.