Big Trouble in Thailand: Jet Ski Scam

Thailand is in big trouble again. Its tourism industry was already facing disaster last year with the prolonged airport closure. Things looked like it was starting to get better but the situation has just been going from bad to worse. This year Thailand has received a lot of negative press from the international media. Everything seems to be going wrong from unexplained tourist deaths to scams and corrupt officials. The British Home Office amongst other countries issued a travel warning about using shops at the airport as you could be accused of stealing if you crossed over an invisible boundary. Tourists have been telling their local newspapers that they were threatened and forced to pay large bribes to keep them out of prisons.

Now comes another nail in the coffin for the tourism industry. A British production company has just started a series of programmes called “Big Trouble in Thailand”. Part one aired on television a few days ago in the UK and there has already been major repercussions. One of the stories in the first episode centers around the “jet ski scam” which has been going on in Thailand for many years. Basically, you rent a jet ski for thirty minutes and when you come back they say that you have damaged it and that you have to pay large sums of money in compensation. The tourists are often threatened with knives and guns and they are surrounded by big thugs. Many people said that the police were no help to them.

The film crew managed to film this scam taking place against a marine. The jet ski operator even brought out his gun. He is probably regretting it now as there has been such an outcry over this scene that the police were forced to act. The governor of Phuket saw to it that he was arrested today and that he was also denied bail. The police also showed the first episode to the media today during a press conference. The local newspaper is reporting that a previous governor had promised to have a crackdown on the jet ski operators and reduce their numbers. Apart from the scams, they are also very dangerous as they have killed swimmers in the past. However, instead of the numbers going down, they have actually increased. No wonder if there is so much money to be made from these scams. Some people have also alleged that the police receive a cut.

I am not sure why they are making such a fuss now. We have all known about this for many years. Over at we receive reports of this scam nearly every day. Each time it is practically the same. It happens in Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket and just about any place that they rent jet skis. Here is one typical report that was sent to us this week:

“When me and my friends got a jet ski out in Pattaya on our last two days there, our nightmare began. We gave the jet ski’s back in after initially agreeing a price of 700 THB for 30 minutes each. What followed was a bill of 115,000 THB for “damage” we caused to the carbon fibre on the jet ski’s, etc. We said no, and that’s when things turned violent. Soon we were held captive at the beech and they started pulling knives out on us. They threatened to kill us at the beach if we did not pay. Eventually they let me go, it took 3 separate visits to the police station before an American volunteer came down to the beach, approximately 5 hours after the incident with my two friends held captive by around 12-15 angry Thai’s.

We went to the police station and were threatened to be killed. Eventually we came to an agreement of 50,000 THB in fear for our lives. These guys continued with the death threats, hands in the pockets, etc. It was a horrible experience and it doesn’t surprise me about these stories. We spent all our remaining money and took extra overdrafts out of the bank to pay these crooks. 10 hours later and finally we escaped Pattaya. They had been waiting outside our hotel after initially paying 33,000 THB with the agreement to pay 17,000 THB the day later. We paid the money three hours later after coming to an agreement with the bank, at 3 a.m. in the police station. We got back to the hotel, fled in a taxi to Bangkok (they had even bribed our receptionist with 1,000 THB to tell him if we left). I’m sure these guys are now very satisfied having pulled this scam off.”

Like many other people who have experienced this scam, these people will now think twice about returning to Thailand. It is also doubtful that any of their friends will come too as they would have been told about this scam. Just visit and you will see all the reports that have ben sent to us about the jet ski scam. We are also discussing this over at the ThailandQA Forums. It is time the authorities woke up and paid attention to all reports of scams that are being spread around the Internet. Everything from the two price system to the Thai gem scam. They need to act now before it is too late and people start going to other holiday destinations that are cheaper and have less corruption and fewer scams.

If you are still planning on coming to Thailand on holiday then I give you this one piece of good advice. DO NOT RENT A JET SKI!

UPDATE: Click here to see pictures of JJ being arrested by the police.

UPDATE (Sunday): The film-makers have now put the raw footage up on youtube in order to show that the jet ski scene was not staged.

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