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Crackdown On Dive Industry

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Dive industry facing tough new rules

PHUKET: -- Phuket’s Chief Administrative Officer (Palad) Nivit Aroonrat yesterday handed the Governor a proposal to issue an order that will require all dive businesses on the island to register with the government within 30 days.

Thereafter, the dive shops will have to provide specific details – including how many foreigners they employ and whether the foreign employees have work permits.

The proposal is based on recommendations by a committee, headed by Palad Nivit, which was set up amid allegations that many dive businesses run by foreigners on the island are evading tax.

Palad Nivit told the Gazette, “[if the Governor approves the proposal] every dive company will have to register at the Phuket Marine Office within 30 days [of the order being issued by the Governor].”

After the 30-day registration period has expired, the operation will move into its second stage, also of 30 days. During this period, operators who have registered must provide all the documentation demanded of them and apply for a permit to operate a dive business in Phuket.

“The permit will be issued by the Governor or by another senior government officer delegated by the Governor,” Palad Nivit said.

“Dive operators will have to declare all information about their businesses, such as the number of boats they have, how many dive trips they make a day, how payments for dive trips are received, the number of employees in the company, how many foreign employees they have and whether those foreign employees have work permits or not, and so on,” he added.

Phuket Marine Office Chief Surin Theerakulpisut said, “We are waiting for the Governor to sign the order before we will announce to the dive operators that they have 60 days to complete the [registration] proc ess.

“Dive operators will have to show us every bit of information about their businesses, including how they operate. For example, if companies have websites, they will have to inform us.

“They will also have to declare how they receive payments, and show us all their accounts. This way we will know how much revenue they receive, so that we can work out how much tax they should pay.”

K. Surin added that the Phuket dive industry is believed to generate about 3 billion baht in revenue a month. “The province has never received all the taxes that it should get from them, and these new rules will help us to collect taxes in full,” he said.

Several crucial points are unclear at this stage: precisely what information will be required; what penalties will be imposed on those who do not comply; whether dive operators will be allowed to continue working during the 60-day process; and how long it will take for permits to be issued.

-- Phuket Gazette 2006-06-16

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OK, I'll bite.... this is a follow-up story from a previous Phuket Gazette series on accusations that foreign dive company operators are exploiting the Thai dive industry by not complying with company/ tax regulations and failing to train & employ Thai citizens in the local dive industry.

The following is a feature story from Phuket Post ( 3-16 June 2006):

Turning the tide

By Kerrie Hall

“What is a computer? What is diving?” Though, he was embarrassed to ask these questions, twenty-two year-old Surin “Boo” Samsum, on Phi Phi island working in a tsunami clean-up team early in 2005, decided that his chance meeting with a young Thai female diver called “Nui”, could help to change his life for the better. Nui told him of an organization that was looking to teach young Thai people to speak English, about computers and how to dive.

On Phi Phi, Boo was paid 4,000 baht a month to rebuild the island. This was a great opportunity to earn money for his family. Soon after, with the influx of foreign volunteers willing to rebuild for free, Boo was out of a job and had to return penniless to his home in Satun province. He once again faced eking out his life as lowly-paid fishing crew.

“Yes, I want to learn,” Boo decided - ten years after telling his crippled father that he wanted nothing more to do with education. His only goal back then was to help put food on the table for his impoverished family. Remembering his meeting with Nui on Phi Phi island, Boo decided he needed to get to Khao Lak and pray that he was accepted to study with the new Ecotourism Training Centre (ETC).

His family had a piggy bank, which they had been saving small change in the hope that his younger sister would have the chance to go to high school. His sister smashed the small bank and collected all the change, giving it to Boo for his bus ticket to Phang Nga province. After a full day’s journey he slept outside the Tablamu police station and made it to the ETC, in Khao Lak, the next day.

Nine months later, Boo has not only learnt what a computer is, but now knows how it works, and how to use it. He speaks, reads and writes proficiently in English and has been able to answer a question he asked of his father almost twenty years ago: “What is under the sea?” Now a PADI Dive-master, Boo’s excitement is contagious every time he dons his dive gear to learn more and more about the underwater world.

On 20 May 2006, Boo and fifteen other beaming students graduated from the ETC program – a full year after many had first heard about an exciting opportunity that would turn their lives around and give them an opportunity they could never have dreamed of. Most of the applicants had barely recovered their senses after suffering tragic effects from the tsunami – losing family members, homes, jobs and several just barely escaping with their own lives when the giant waves hit Khao Lak.

The ETC students - featured on Discovery Channel, Richard Bang’s Yahoo Adventures, CNN news reports and the subject of radio & film documentaries as well as a multitude of magazine and newspaper stories across the globe – was the vision of two men who had realised early on that the impact of tsunami aid was only the beginning of a long journey for many to recover their futures. After helping with initial rescue and aid operations, American Reid Ridgway and Swiss-national Pascal Hernikat (who himself fled for his life from the tsunami in Khao Lak and was left with only the clothes he was wearing) dug into their souls and – with the help from funds donated by Ridgway’s friends and family members in the USA - planted the seeds of the training centre for tsunami-affected youths.

Their journey has indeed been long and the tireless dedication of Ridgway, Hernikat, and other volunteer team members - like Sarah Krantz, a teacher and adolescent counsellor, who happened upon the ETC by accident while on vacation from the USA and now heads the specialist Intensive English-language curricula of the program – is an inspiration for this group of young Thai people who worked so hard alongside their tutors to earn the chance to work as professionals in the growing ecotourism industry.

“My heart was immediately taken by the students' eagerness to learn and their ability to persevere through such a devastating disaster like the tsunami, [so] my plans changed,” says Krantz.

“I have personally witnessed the transformation of these 16 individuals from timid, introverted learners to confident leaders, eager to soak up any knowledge you are willing to convey. When we were able to present them with their hard earned dive-master cards, and I could congratulate them in a language many never understood until recent months, I felt more proud of their hard work than anything else in my life”.

Starting with US$5000, the ETC founders somehow found private and small corporate sponsors to donate funds necessary to buy the computers and enough dive equipment to share around amongst the students. They built their own long-tail boat to transport them to dive training and ocean sites where the team carried out extensive community service clean-up efforts – clearing mounds of rubble and debris from surrounding beaches and reefs, left behind in the wake of the tsunami waves. Despite the fact that little more than seven percent of the entire annual operating budget of the ETC was donated by any of the large charity organizations in the region – they made it through the year with startling results.

Many of the graduate students have already found jobs in the dive industry. Both from the fishing village of Baan Nam Khem - which was almost completely destroyed and suffered enormous loss of life from the tsunami - Orrthai “Jaew” Shawgvean and Saipin Kitsoun are now on Phi Phi island teaching dive skills to tourists. Jaew – who luckily survived the deadly wave with her family - is a dive-master at Phi Phi Dive Advanced Adventure, and Saipin – narrowly escaping death after being washed out to sea during the tsunami while working as a seaside resort masseuse – is now also gainfully employed as a professional dive-master.

Of the ETC's first 16 graduates, fifteen students are now dive-masters. One student has graduated as a rescue diver, and five are continuing on with their training and studies to become qualified instructors by June. Three students have been hired by Phi Phi Dive Camp Advanced Adventure, one student has job offers as a marine videographer but wishes first to complete his PADI Instructor Development Course before accepting a position, two students will be returning to ETC as dive-master tutors in the 2007 teaching program and one student has been hired as the ETC staff instructor.

Some students have decided to seek work in the dive and tourism industries as marketing and administrative staff - keen to continue with their computer, English and environmental education skills. After working and training with the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, the Coastal Habitat and Resource Management Group, the United Nations Development Program, the Royal Thai Navy, the Thai Marine Police, Bangkok Phuket Hospital's Dive Medicine group and receiving specialty training in dive equipment maintenance and repair from Dive Supply and ScubaPro, underwater videography and photography with Scuba Zoo and in the use of Enriched Air Nitrox, they all now have a huge head start in their new careers.

Boo’s dream is to be able to provide for his father. “He took care of me since I was this small,” says Boo motioning to the ground “It is now my turn.”

He says his father dreams that one of his children will someday go to college. Boo wants to give his little sister that chance, and feels as a Dive Instructor he will be able to provide her an education. Thinking he would never be anything but a fisherman, he never dared hoped to be anything more.

“I am so lucky to come to ETC, it changed my whole life,” he says.

** The ETC 2006 student’s tuition was primarily funded by private donors (mostly from Phuket, Europe & USA – including a class of San Fransisco Grade 4 primary school students) & various corporate sponsors. Dive equipment was generously donated by Suntech Integrated Media (Singapore) & PATA; dive training & education sponsored by PADI. The French Red Cross has approved part-funding for the ETC 2007 program. For information on student job placement or sponsoring ETC 2007 students contact: ETC Managing Director Reid Ridgway, tel: (0) 7263 6016; email: reid@etcth.org; www.etcth.org

***** The Ecotourism Training Centre now faces immediate closure due to lack of funding support.

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Although I do agree that the gov't should be payed the taxes owed by these businesses, it really amazes me that they are specifically tailoring these reporting proposals for the scuba dive industry alone.

Why not just make a general proposal that covers all businesses equally? I thought that laws regarding business operations were already in the books!!!

I hope someday to hear that there will be a crackdown on Thai stupidity.

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"The proposal is based on recommendations by a committee, headed by Palad Nivit, which was set up amid allegations that many dive businesses run by foreigners on the island are evading tax."

I love this kind of stuff. Well, let's see, I wonder if anyone else in Thailand evades taxes...hmmm, I can't think of anyone who hails from Chiang Mai who might fit the bill.

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Real companies shouldn't have any real issues ....

Plenty of ways to skim $$ in any Biz ... but this is one that is pretty inaccesible to the average Thai ... the expense that most people pay to get certified to at least DiveMaster level are HIGH! .. add instructor to that and it doubles ... buy your own equipment and it can double again ...

Since there is almost no chance that a Boss from Gov't is gonna read this ... they'd be smarter to insist on parity. One Thai divemaster trained for every foriegner on staff ...

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Interesting quite expensive proposition to achieve Dive Instructor and Dive Master. Who actually pays for this, the dive company????

Edited by britmaveric

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Real companies shouldn't have any real issues ....

Plenty of ways to skim $$ in any Biz ... but this is one that is pretty inaccesible to the average Thai ... the expense that most people pay to get certified to at least DiveMaster level are HIGH! .. add instructor to that and it doubles ... buy your own equipment and it can double again ...

Since there is almost no chance that a Boss from Gov't is gonna read this ... they'd be smarter to insist on parity. One Thai divemaster trained for every foriegner on staff ...

Read Post #2 - In May 2006, sixteen (16) divemasters/ (instructors) graduated from the Ecotorism Training Centre (ETC) in Khao Lak - after 9 mths of intensive international, practical tuition resulting in PADI certification, English-language skills, computer training, etc - funded completely by foreign sponsorship.

The centre now faces immediate closure as they cannot raise the private funds to continue their "charity" intensive-dive training programme... the centre was meant to be an ongoing annual training hub to give unique, professional opportunities to young Thai people.

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Interesting quite expensive proposition to achieve Dive Instructor and Dive Master. Who actually pays for this, the dive company????

Not in any standard situation ... you earn the cert by taking the classes and making the dives ... and you pay it yourself.

and I read Post #2 .... did you read mine? Looks like 6 will possibly qualify as instructors at some point .. maybe ...... which COULD do good things for getting more Thais interested in Scuba ... But unless their language skills are excellent in Many languages there will be a need for foriegn instructors ...

Plus .. frankly even a dive-master needs to be proficient to some extent in the language of the people he is taking diving. I mean REALLY CULTURALLY proficient ... trust is a HUGE part of getting new divers to not only continue but to advance! Profits in the industry are increased with classes and sales ...

I know alot of Thai people that are fluent in English ... but few-none that would leave what they are doing for a less lucrative job in being a dive-master

It doesn't say in the article that the Instructor class is offered there or that it is free ... but we can assume it might be ....

now what about the equipment that a divemaster must own? ... about 60k baht worth. It doesn't say in the article that they were given that ... a new divemaster MAY be able to borrow some from his company (break it you bought it) but the really pricey stuff you should have .. well ....

Edited by jdinasia

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Idinasia - I think the gist of the article in Post #2 is that most of the dive programme students came from poor unskilled backgrounds with little chance of opportunity in life. The programme was funded by foreign donors to help them on their way and with the enthusiasm they have to escape their poverty, they certainly have a better chance in life, now, than they ever had before.

Often, those from nothing rise to greatness! :o

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I read the same article ... and got that ONE was from a really poor family and another was directly affected by the Tsunami ...But for the sake of no argument let's assume that many of the 15 or 16 grads were poor.

but I saw the thread being about the dive industry and Crackdowns now on the dive industry. I guess it is possible for a few of the grads to progress in the field and do something like own a shop. ((Honestly I don't see that happening as the expenses and business expertise required))

The practicalities involved in being a hardass on any aspect of this field OTHER than in paying taxes would show that being too tough on the field will cost Thailand further tourism and a loss of skilled foriegn labor.

which is why I wrote my first post in this thread

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Idinasia - I think the gist of the article in Post #2 is that most of the dive programme students came from poor unskilled backgrounds with little chance of opportunity in life. The programme was funded by foreign donors to help them on their way and with the enthusiasm they have to escape their poverty, they certainly have a better chance in life, now, than they ever had before.

Often, those from nothing rise to greatness! :o

They should try sending them to Cairns to be trained, they have now made it a law in queensland that divemasters must be able to count to 24 without taking their shoes off, for all non australians this law is protect the tourists from being left out on the reef to make their own way home :D nignoy

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Idinasia - I think the gist of the article in Post #2 is that most of the dive programme students came from poor unskilled backgrounds with little chance of opportunity in life. The programme was funded by foreign donors to help them on their way and with the enthusiasm they have to escape their poverty, they certainly have a better chance in life, now, than they ever had before.

Often, those from nothing rise to greatness! :D

They should try sending them to Cairns to be trained, they have now made it a law in queensland that divemasters must be able to count to 24 without taking their shoes off, for all non australians this law is protect the tourists from being left out on the reef to make their own way home :D nignoy

Are you from Cairns, Nignoy? :o

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Haha... thats why I set up an online dive business for Asia..

One issue that might be casue for concern is the "crackdown" on farang with (or without) permits.

I know of not a single dive master/instructor with one, they live here on 30 day visa runs.

I was under the impression from reading the work permit requirements that work in the tourisim business for farang was not possible (eg no work permit granted). It will be interresting to see how this plays out..

Thailand has the largest number of certified divers in Asia, and graduates more than any other country on a monthly basis.

Whats more worrying are the dive "schools" that are not certified by either PADI or SSI.

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Coming on the back of the crack-down on farang/Thai companies that own land; and that 90% of the dive companies in Phuket are farang owned. Coincidence? I don't think so. Somebody thinks "farang make money too mut".

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