Thai police are checking foreign-run car rental shops in Phuket for law violations.

Phuket News reports that Thai police have launched a campaign to crack down on car and motorbike rentals in Phuket run by foreigners suspected of using nominee shareholders.

To mark the start of the campaign, Region 8 police chief Lieutenant General Surapong Thanomjit raided car and motorbike rental businesses in Phuket. The raid, which involved Phuket provincial police chief Major General Sinlert Sukhum, senior police officers, and the Special Operations and Tactics Unit, seized over 100 vehicles.

Lieutenant-General Surapong said five similar car and motorbike rental companies with more than 1,000 vehicles were under investigation. Surapong said the vehicle rental companies are suspected of using nominee shareholders when registering companies to do business.

A report released by Region 8 police said foreigners involved in the vehicle rental business even brought family members and friends to Phuket to participate in its management. Police did not specify which specific nationals were involved.

Foreign criminals enter Phuket as tourists and then set up companies with the help of people who know the law and contacts. Initially, the companies are set up with the correct proportion of foreign ownership. The shares are then transferred so that the foreigners become majority shareholders, but not in the proportion allowed by law,” the police report explained.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the raid, Lieutenant General Surapong said 614 foreigners have been arrested in the past six months, 98 of whom have been deported for committing offences. Police are taking action against foreigners engaged in illegal activities in Phuket,” Lieutenant-General Surapong told the audience.

The campaign to crack down on car and motorbike rentals in Phuket began after social media users accused Phuket province of being ungrateful and favouring foreign tourists over Thais. The heated discussion was sparked by online users’ accounts that some businesses in Phuket are unfriendly to Thai visitors and only target foreigners.

Thai users have supported the claims, saying that Russians who do not welcome Thai customers own numerous vehicle hire outlets. Some claimed that the discrimination is not limited to the rental outlets and complained that Thai tourists are not welcomed in Phuket province in principle.

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