Jamie's Phuket Blog

The Phuket Jet Ski Debate

I keep updating top of the page with new stories - the "debate" never seems to end. What do you think of Jet Skis in Phuket? The bad news about scams and rip offs and aggressive behavior keeps coming, thanks to the local news sites, especially the rebellious Phuket Wan for keeping people informed.

NEW report from July 22nd 2011 - sounds like the Jet Ski Thugs are getting aggressive.

Report : Our Phuket Jet-Ski Scam Nightmare

UPDATE 2014, Despite a Russian crashing and killing himself and continued reports of aggressive jet ski operators ripping people off for pre-existing damage, somehow they are still allowed. Simple advice for you...


March 2011 :

WINAI 'JJ' Naiman led a gang of jet-ski operators who intimidated three young Australian backpackers on Patong beach and demanded almost 100,000 baht for damage to two jet-skis, an American police volunteer said today. The backpackers - two young women and their male companion - were terrified by the experience yesterday and will never again return to Thailand.

(From local news)

February 2011:

TOURISTS were scammed of 150,000 baht in a jet-ski extortion last week - latest in a long line of rip-offs on Phuket that extended back 10 years, a meeting between honorary consuls and Phuket's Governor heard yesterday.

'Please, please tell us. Can you stop this problem or not?' Australia's honorary consul, Larry Cunningham asked Governor Tri Augkaradacha.

(from local news)

More scams... January 2011: Australian Family Ripped Off by Jet Skis

And this has now made the mainstream news in Australia to - see here.

Update October 2010.. I update this page now and then if I see a story. I don't know how many scams go unreported. Rent a jet ski at your own risk.

The scams continue, have a look at this story and this story, both from October 2010 and this story from November 2010. Make your own mind up.


April 2010 - more bad Jet Ski news - a Singaporean visitor had a nasty accident and died 11 days later - full story at Phuket Wan.

Seriously, avoid jet skis. Just avoid them.

Ah, no... far too optimistic of me.. Update February 2010...

Phuket jet Skis Still Uninsured - story in Phuket Gazette

"A number of jet-skis continue to operate in Phuket uninsured, despite a scheme launched last year aimed at having every jet-ski in Phuket covered by accident insurance. Of the island’s 219 registered jet-skis, 43 still have not joined the scheme."

Ok, Governator - your personal promise was given. Sort it out!


Update November 27th 2009 ...

Phuket Jet Skis now Insured - story on Phuket Gazette.

"Gov Wichai gave his personal promise that problems with the jet-ski rental industry are now a thing of the past, thanks to the insurance plan."

Let's indeed hope that's the end of the scams, the start of something new. Right, now, next on the list... bus service between the beaches??


Updated on November 20th 2009... (Good News, I'd say!)

A jet ski operator was arrested at Patong today and his vehicle was impounded and taken to Kathu police station. The operator was accused of hiring out his vehicle without registration or insurance.

His arrest and the confiscation of the jet-ski was the clearest indication so far that the bad old days of scamming by jet-ski operators may finally be over.

Full Story


Final Update?... October 13th 2009:

It's official. Following a deal signed at Phuket Provincial Hall today, Phuket jet-ski operators will now be required to get mandatory insurance for their machines.

Phuket Jet-ski Association President Anusorn Sahreh signed the deal with Saiwalee Sakornjit of Ayudhya Insurance Public Company Limited just before noon.

The event was witnessed by around 15 jet-ski operators.

Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop was also present at the signing.

The deal will be a relief to Gov Wichai, who has been told by the Deputy Prime Minister to end the island’s infamous jet-ski scam, in which tourists who rent out jet-skis are forced to pay out large amounts of cash in compensation for alleged damages to the machines.

The island’s 219 legally registered jet-skis now have until November 15 to sign up to one of two insurance schemes....

Full Story - Phuket Gazette:

Phuket Jet Ski Operators Agree to Insurance Plan

(comment added: as you can see from the more recent updates, the insurance scheme was a load of cr*p, the scams continue. DON'T RENT JET SKIS)

Original article :

I feel something should be written here about this weeks big story in Phuket. Jet Skis. Actually, it's an ongoing saga, but this week has seen some very interesting developments. The "Jet Ski" scam is well known, yet people get caught all the time. Not just in Phuket, I have heard the same from Ko Pha Ngan, and read about similar operations in other countries. You rent a jet ski for a bit of adrenaline on the water, bring back the machine after an hour of fun, and lo! The guy who rented it to you finds some damage. I think you know the rest of the story.

Now, I have no problem with jet skis if they are properly operated, insured, maintained and kept outside of safe swimming areas. I am not a "jet ski hater". A lot of tourists expect this kind of watersports activity to be available at a major beach resort like Patong Beach. BUT, caveat emptor. Most jet skis have no insurance, and you can normally see this in big letters on the machine "NO INSURANCE". Not put off by this? PT Barnum would have loved you.

Are jet skis unsafe? Well, no less safe than a motorbike IF you are riding carefully. Accidents do happen. Trouble is, ANYONE can rent a jet ski. No experience needed. And that is something I don't like. Back in 2003 there were at least a couple of deaths, one of them a 13 year old whose dad had rented the jet ski for him. That's a sad story.

• 13 year old dies in jet ski crash (October 25th 2003)
19 year old dies in jet ski crash (November 26th 2003)

Back in 2003, there was a bit of a debate and the (then) governor of Phuket Udomsak Usawarangkura vowed that laws covering jet-skis would be strictly enforced from then on – and that jet-skis would vanish from Phuket beaches within seven years.

Governer vows to rid Phuket of Jet Skis

Of course it never happened. In fact there were even more jet skis registered, despite the governor saying "All jet-ski licenses will expire within seven years and we won’t issue any new ones". Now, any death is a bad thing, but every year there are quite a number of deaths by drowning at the beaches in Phuket, and you can't ban swimming. Drunken tourists crash motorbikes and die, a plane crashed in 2007. You can't ban mopeds or flights. It's a sad world sometimes. I have not read of any jet ski deaths in Phuket since 2003, please correct me if you know of any.

Actually, the jet ski had a bit of a revival after the tsunami. There was even a round of the Asian jet ski championship at Patong in 2006, see video below:

In 2007, the new governor backed down from the total removal of jet skis and allowed owners of registered jet-skis to replace old or inoperable vessels with new ones, but still there was mention of a total ban by 2011:

Governor relaxes jet ski ban (February 2007)

But the scams continued, or maybe got worse, or maybe just got reported more. If you are a reader of travel forums, you will probably have read warnings. But nothing has ever been done. Here's another video, from 2008:

Suddenly, in the last week or so, jet skis have been big news again. It started on September 1st. There was a story in the Phuket Wan website about a Chinese tourist who, when confronted with jet ski operators demanding 50,000 Baht for "damage". She called the Chinese honorary consul who called the Phuket governor. The word had reached the ears of the right person:

Chinese tourist refuses to pay jet ski demands

It seems word then spread to other influential figures such as the deputy prime minister of Thailand and the Phuket provincial police commander. The story below is from 4th September.

Top Cop orders end to jet ski scams

At the same time, the Phuket Gazette ran a readers poll. What should be done with jet skis? Ban them, was the majority answer, though quite a few people would be happy with strict enforcement of the regulations. I personally believe, that if jet skis are properly run, are insured, kept to certain areas and there are no rip offs, then we can all live happily.

Phuket Gazette readers favor total ban on jet-skis

Oh dear, then this happens. Now the sh*t has hit the fan, no hiding any more. It's on TV. Lots of people will see it, bad for Thailand's image, so suddenly it's a big deal again. There was this story on 7th September:

British TV shows gun in jet ski scam standoff

A TV show on the "Bravo" channel in the UK called "Trouble in Tourist Thailand" aired last week. Part of the program shows the jet ski operators confronting some British navy boys on shore leave. Things get heated, they call in an MP Sergeant who accuses the jet ski boys of being crooks. One of them has a gun. And of course, the whole show was on Youtube a day later. I have not watched the whole thing yet. (Update 2010 - can't find these on Youtube now - anyone know where I can find them?)

On the 10th, the guy called "JJ" who was brandishing the gun was arrested, though has now been released on bail. We will see where this leads. Will he be a scapegoat? Will anything actually be done to regulate the jet ski industry? The report in Phuket Wan below says that Phuket's Governor, Wichai Praisa-nob, has been urged by the Deputy Prime Minister and senior diplomats from Australia and Britain to crack down on the scams. Oh, and then there's the Chinese too...

JJ (jet ski operator) arrested in Phuket

On the 11th, there was a "crisis meeting" in Patong with jet ski operators, the governor of Phuket, local municipality leaders, members of the navy and police... now, Thailand is well known for face saving measures, and the outcome of the meeting seems (for now) to be that jet skis MUST have insurance for damage. With insurance, there would be no scams. The story is not over yet... some of the operators said their businesses would not be economic if they had to get insurance. So.. hey, charge a bit more for rental, then! There is said to be another meeting due on the 18th to work out details for an insurance scheme.

Phuket jet ski operators must get insurance

Meanwhile, with some people saying the TV show was a set-up, the Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand, the producer of the show tells his side of the story:

Inside the jet ski scandal

The story will go on, a compromise will be reached, but it does seem that the current governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-nob, seems determined to clean up the island in more ways than one. We don't need rip offs, we don't need bad press. Unfortunately it's the bad press that people here tend to worry about more. I would hope that everyone can get their heads together and work something out. I will add more links to news stories here as they come.

Update 14th September - there are plenty more videos appearing on Youtube with uncut footage from the TV series "Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand" inluding a full interview with "JJ" and raw footage of the confrontation with British marines on shore leave. The Phuket Gazette reports that there is now a new vid showing US marines also being fleeced.

A few links... (open YouTube in new window).. there are al kinds of uncut bits of video on Youtube now posted by the producer of the TV program.

"JJ vs. Marines Uncut part 1"
"JJ vs. Marines Uncut part 2"
"JJ vs. Marines Uncut part 3"
"JJ Interview Part 1 (uncut)"

Update 2: 14th September. I don't believe what I am reading here. Hide the truth? Phuket Wan reports the following:

The second episode in the controversial 'Big Trouble' television series is set to screen in Britain on Monday night - but Thai authorities are now preventing the eight-part series from being completed.

Producer-director Gavin Hill says the Thailand Film Office has sent a letter asking the British production company, Bravo, not to screen any more episodes.

My jaw dropped at that one. I'm sorry, did you want the TV to only show smiling faces, leelawadee blossoms and sparkling blue seas?

Phuket Wan writes "The Thailand Film Office has pulled all the releases and permissions that are required to complete the series.

So, when you signed all the releases, the name of the program "Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand" was not a hint as to it's content?

Let's just sweep it under the carpet. Let's make JJ Mayor of Patong, eh! Guess it will all be on YouTube anyway... How can the Thailand Film Office have any say over what is on TV in the UK? Ok, let's see how this develops...

Update 15th September:

Phuket Wan reports "The governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-nob, wants the Department of Special Investigations to probe major corruption on the holiday island.

He has also asked the Foreign Ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand to investigate widespread crimes and rip-offs.

Phuket Scams: Governor Calls for Corruption Probe

Update 16th September

Phuket Wan reports:

"TALKS are underway among Phuket jet-ski operators to change their methods and eliminate scams from their businesses.

Insurance is not possible because under Thai law, the jet-skis are for sport only and cannot be rented to others, the president of the Bang Tao Jet-Ski Association, Anusorn Sale, told Phuketwan today.

The operators were given a week by the Governor, Wichai Praisa-nob, to reach their own agreement on how to operate legitimately and to put suggestions to him.

I have highlighted that section - Under Thai law jet skis cannot be rented to others. Let's repeat that.. Under Thai law jet skis cannot be rented to others. I am now shaking my head and wondering what is going on here. The LAW says that you can't rent a jet ski? So surely, surely they should not be at the beaches at all... or am I missing something?

Jet-Ski Scams: Fresh Round of Talks on Friday

Update 18th September. And this is a good one! I mean how DARE the TV show footage that might show Thailand in a bad light? It must be all made up, right?

Phuket Gazette Reports:

"The Thai television company responsible for producing the Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand series, which featured footage of an alleged jet-ski scam on Phuket, is to be prosecuted... Director-general of the Office of Tourism Development, Seksan Nakawong, reportedly said the film-makers had violated Article 23 of the same law for making a film damaging to Thailand’s reputation"

I am gobsmacked.

TV Production company to be prosecuted

Further update 18th September..

Good news. Good news. IF it happens...

Phuket jet-skis: agreement reached on insurance scheme

The Phuket Gazette reports "Phuket jet-ski operators will have to get accident insurance for their vehicles or cease doing business on Phuket's beaches, it was agreed at the key ‘jet-ski summit’ in Patong today.

Inside the packed meeting hall at Patong Municipality today were Vice Governor Smith Palawatvichai, Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pekad Tantipong, Kathu Police Superintendent Grissak Songmoonnark, Deputy Mayor of Patong Chairat Sukhabaan, Director of Phuket Provincial Insurance Office Suwimon Saelim, and around 50 jet-ski operators – including the island’s now infamous Winai ‘JJ’ Naiman.

To be continued I am sure!

... Updated on 23rd September:

Phuket Wan reports "Patong Jet-Ski operator Winai 'JJ' Naiman went to court in Phuket City today and found his case has been rescheduled for October 5.

The island's jet-ski operators and local authorities are to meet on Wednesday afternoon to try to find a solution that will restore Phuket's reputation as a hospitable tourist haven.

Jet-Ski JJ Case Delayed as Scam Plot Thickens

More recent updates - top of the page, most recent updates are right at the top.


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