Australians warned about scams in Phuket

AUSTRALIAN tourists in Phuket should be wary of extortion gangs, some of which are in cahoots with local police.

Australian ambassador to Thailand James Wise and his British counterpart, Mark Kent, have joined a Thai Ministry of Tourism campaign to tackle tourist scams on Phuket.

The main scams involve taxi and jet-ski operators in Phuket and the seaside resort town of Pattaya. Mr Wise said travellers needed to be on guard when they hired jet-skis or motorcycles.

''Consider the implications if it is stolen or damaged. Foreigners are commonly detained by police until compensation, often thousands of dollars, is negotiated between the parties.''

Larry Cunningham, Australia's honorary consul in Phuket, said young travellers were specially targeted by gangs and on occasion by police.

Lutzi Matzig, managing director of Indochina tour operator Asian Trails, says a concern in Phuket is overcharging by taxis.