Ko Samui is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons following an attack on a a 27-year-old Swiss tourist on Chaweng Beach on Tuesday. It has been reported locally that four Thai employees of a jet ski business assaulted the Swiss man following a dispute over alleged damage to a jet ski. The four Thai men have been charged with physical assault and remain in police custody. Sadly, this is not the first incident of this kind in Thailand, with Phuket and Pattaya already having earned an unenviable reputation for jet ski scams.
How the jet ski scam works
There is nothing sophisticated about the scam. Jet ski operators rent out their jet skis to unsuspecting tourists who may have a quick check of the vehicle and see no noticeable signs of damage. After their time on the jet ski is up, they return it to the operator who then inspects it and finds damage. This is usually in the form of pre-existing scratches or dents on the bottom of the jet ski that the person hiring out wouldn’t have noticed because it was below the waterline. The tourist is then pressurised into paying for the damage. All too often this manifests as threats of violence from the jet ski operators. Sometimes the tourists will make the payment to get away from an awkward situation, but there have been a number of incidents where tourists have refused to pay for damage they didn’t cause and it has resulted in the jet ski operators resorting to violence.
Why has this been allowed to go on?
That is a very good question and one which Thai authorities would do well to answer. Some jet ski operators are referred to as a Mafia-like operation and there are also accusations that some police officers have been complicit in allowing the practice to continue. Whether this latest incident on Ko Samui will act as tipping point remains to be seen. High ranking officials involved in the Thai tourist industry have been making all the right noises following this latest incident and have called for more regulation and controls on jet ski operators.
How to avoid being scammed
If you want to guarantee that you don’t get scammed the answer is simple; don’t rent a jet ski anywhere in Thailand. If you do want to rent a jet ski and know about the scam then that’s up to you and I hope you have a good time on the jet ski with no problems. I don’t know what percentage of the jet ski operators in Thailand run rogue businesses, but I do know there have been far too many incidents of this kind happening in Thailand in recent years (particularly Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Samui) to try and pass it off as just one or two bad apples.