The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is planning to probe foreign-owned businesses in Phuket following complaints by locals that unregistered enterprises are taking over the island.
DSI officers have travelled to Phuket to probe foreign businesses after a network of taxi drivers in tambon Cheng-Talay of Phuket's Thalang district filed a complaint that Russian and Korean operators were taking over the local business market.
Pol Lt Col Somboon Sarasit, head of the DSI's Bureau of Special Crime 3, said officers will speak to the complainants and work with the Department of Business Development to determine which foreign businesses have not been properly registered.
Kasem Samran, the taxi network's deputy chief, said Russians have been taking taxi jobs from locals for about two years. The foreigners have also prevented Russian tourists from using local taxis, he said.
Some of the companies do not have the proper documents to operate, Pol Lt Col Somboon said. However, many of the firms shut their doors when officials pay them visits, he added.
Legal action will be taken against business operators who are unregistered.
He said Thais hired as nominee share-holders by illegal foreign-run businesses could also face a jail term of up to three years or a fine of 100,000 baht-1 million baht under the Foreign Business Act 1999.
The act prevents foreigners from holding majority shares in tour guide businesses, laundries and time-share accommodation.
Pol Lt Col Somboon said businesses' financial records will be probed.
Phuket governor Maitri Inthusut said a crackdown is needed on illegal foreign businesses to boost business prospects for locals, some of whom had been forced out of work.
A total of 8,635 foreigners have obtained work permits in Phuket, including 1,169 Britons, 668 Filipinos, 646 Russians and 554 French.
Most of the foreigners work in hotels, and others work in real estate development and business management.
Meanwhile, Nimit Kangkachit, head of the Office of Provincial Business Development Phuket, said the agency will examine foreign businesses in the province to stamp out foreign operators who violate the laws.
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- Writer: Achadtaya Chuenniran