Here is the story of a foreign business owner in Pattaya that has been in operation for a number of years, and a couple of weeks ago things changed dramatically.
Hi, I am Sam and I am building a group of businesses and travellers together to try and help with the effects that the Hotel Act enforcement is causing, to both groups.
Thanks for talking to me as a Hotel owner that was recently inspected in Pattaya, Thailand for a Hotel Licence.
Can you tell me a bit about your business?
With pleasure, I have been running a small boutique hotel in Pattaya for over 8 years.
How many rooms for rent do you have?
I have/had a total of 16 rooms for daily rental.
So, have you got, or ever had a Hotel Licence to operate?
I was not required to have hotel license as such, only room for rent license. Which I have, along with all other necessary licences, including tax receipts.
Do you have a work permit and employ any staff?
Yes. I have the correct Visa’s, Work Permit, and I employ 4 Thai staff.
What about tax returns, social insurance, rental license, alcohol and cigarette licence, TM30 submissions, building & land tax and all the other required documents/regulations to allow you to trade legally.
Yes. I have had a fully legal business for many years, paid all required tax, licence fees and complied with all the other regulations that a business owner is responsible for. I have work permit, visa, food and alcohol license up to date, everything that I have needed since I started the business.
Ok. Looks like a normal legitimate and well established business offering short term accommodation. So what was the problem?
Very recently I was sitting at reception of my business in Pattaya and, I believe it was about 8 tourist police officers that rushed in from all sides of the hotel.
They were grabbing and touching everything, asking to see “bayanuyat”.
I pointed to the wall as I have all my licenses displayed and mine was renewed about 2 months ago. I even had signed tax receipts. Police were not interested in how many staff or tax, their only concern was hotel license.
So if you had your licence. That was it?
They did not accept mine as a valid hotel licence. They started collecting company bookings, price list, receipts and everything else they could carry away
The same licence you have had for the last 8 years wasn’t valid?
No. Apparently not, and it was only renewed 2 months ago.
Did they tell you to report at the Police Station sometime in the future, to try and resolve the problem. Or, did they give you a summons to appear anywhere?
No. I was taken to tourist police headquarters immediately, where I was put in a big room along with another 7/8 people. I soon learned, they were other hotel owners and managers that had been picked up in the same raids/inspections.
You were actually taken away from your place of business for not having a piece of paper, that was not required previously?
YES and from about 16:00pm, to 23:00 pm we were held there, while officers were filling out paperwork, taking photo’s etc…..
So you didn’t get released until after 11pm at night for some questionable requirement for paperwork?
I wish it was that easy. In the end, we were told that we are all under arrest for illegally operating a business, and now would be taken down to police station to be charged.
Once we arrived in police station, we were thrown into jail, general population. NOT only the holding room but actually locked up in the cells.
You are shitting me? Over a licence?
Yes, over a licence and NO, I am not “shitting you”. We were actually locked up with general population prisoners.
That must have been dreadful. What was it like for you to be in there?
Will not talk about the cells, unless someone needs to know.
No. That’s fine. I can understand you don’t want to talk about ending up in the cells with whoever else the Police were currently holding, for whatever offences they committed. I can see how terrifying that would be to most businessmen who are just running a legal hotel business.
Were you offered any legal representation or made aware of your situation as far as release goes?
Through some “negotiations” we were given an option to pay 150,000 THB bond, to be released, but still have to go to court.
Luckily, I had some good friends “assist” me and i chose not to pay 150,000 THB and stayed locked up.
My friends, spoke to his friends and with small token of appreciation the head prosecutor agreed to prepare court documents in the middle of the night, so i could be taken to court in the morning, otherwise its 3-5 days wait to front the court, meaning 3-5 days locked up.
So you had to stay in jail overnight?
Yes. Not the best of nights.
Did you get taken to court the following morning?
We did yes. Off to court in handcuffs and chains. I will also add i was fingerprinted head to toe so i am now feeling like a hardcore criminal. The Head prosecutor, suggested i do not request translator and speak to court directly (my Thai was good enough according to him, and again according to him, Thai judges do like foreigners who speak Thai and tend to be a bit more lenient.
Now you are having me on. They took you to court in handcuffs and leg chains, like a murderer would be transported?
I tell you the truth. It was a bad feeling. I am just a hotel owner who had the wrong piece of paper, but my business was totally legal until they changed the law. Or, why would they have given me my licence, for the last 8 years?
I am truly amazed. In most countries you would be asked to appear at some authority office to try and sort out a paperwork problem, maybe a summons. Not locked up with criminals, fingerprinted, chained and dragged through court within hours.How did the court proceedings go?
Believe it, or not. This is exactly what happened.
Judge was about 1/3 more lenient towards me than towards Thai owners/managers.
In court i fronted the judge alone, no lawyers or translators. I was ordered to pay 40,000 THB and check in with court every 6 days?
After that the 40,000 THB will be refunded. So I am guessing the payment is something like good behaviour bond.
How about your business. Can you still operate?
I was not given any court order and I was not given charge papers, or anything at all.
Can I operate or not is up in the air, legally I should not be accepting daily bookings, but then I was not given any paperwork saying anything.
So, through some Thai friends, we did look into an expedited way to get hotel license but it is simply impossible, even if we could “create” green zones and parking.
My Hotel is located too close to the road and surrounded by other buildings. I could not possibly modify the building, even if I wanted. Adding second staircase not only costly, but physically impossible.
Basically, no chance on this planet to comply with the regulations.
Final result, I can stay open but ONLY 30 day rentals
Sorry to ask because I know how angry and frustrated you must feel. But, Will your business survive?
Well Sam, monthly rentals will just break even if the place is full.
So at this stage I do not want to fold the business and lay off my staff, and I do not want to turn to monthly apartment style at this time.
I will try to wait it out for 1-2 months, because I really do not see how Thailand will cope with high season, when no rooms are available. Cooler heads have to prevail.
I know readers around the world will be amazed by your story which although you are not prepared to be named, or have your business named will ring true with the many other businessmen that are being dragged down the same shocking path by Thai authority.
Thanks for talking to me.
I know many businesses that have been affected, and most do not want to say anything. Walking on eggshells.
Everyone who does get inspected, arrested and charged for this “CRIME” is now just hoping for changes and they certainly don’t want to bring more attention to their individual case as the punishments and fines can be shocking.
We wish you the best of luck and hope by bringing some awareness to not only the thousands of businesses affected in Thailand, but to the millions of visitors to the country every month.
To the readers of this article. You are welcome to take this as FACT or FICTION. Unfortunately we will not reveal the hotel owners name, business or location, except that it was in Pattaya, Thailand and it took place within the last few weeks. YOU decide if it is TRUE.