Thailand launches special court for handling tourist scams

Thailand on Thursday launched its first court to handle the claims of foreign tourists in the so-called Land of Smiles, officials said.

The special court was opened for business from 4:30 am to 8:30 pm at Pattaya beach resort, 100 kilometres south-east of Bangkok, the most popular destination for foreign tourists.

The court's first case involved a tourist and the owner of a jet ski which had allegedly been damaged.

Tourists often complain of being overcharged for damaging jet skis or other rental equipment in Pattaya, with operators threatening to withhold passports left as deposits until compensation is paid.

"This court has been set up to address the concerns of tourists who run into problems in our country," said Sittisak Wannanchakij, a spokesman for the secretariat of the Judiciary.

"But the court will only handle small cases that can be solved in a day, mostly through negotiations," he said.

An estimated 26 million tourists will visit Thailand this year.

Pattaya, renowned for its seedy nightlife, was chosen for the first court because it attracts the most foreign tourists and is rife with complaints of cheating and scams.

A second tourist court was to be opened in Phuket, a resort island 600 kilometres south of Bangkok, this month, Sittisak said.

A total of eight such courts were planned across the country.