PHUKET — Marine protection officials on Friday filed a police complaint against Chinese tourists for taking photos with rare sea creatures in the sea off Koh Racha.
Chinese tourists Sanyang Qin and Wen Zhang were accused of holding up a starfish and stepping on coral reefs during their Thursday diving trip in Phuket province. Their actions violated a law forbidding harm to the coastal environment, environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa said.
“We coordinated with the provincial tourism police, marine office, and a tour operator to bring in the perpetrators,” Varawut said in a Saturday post on his personal Facebook page. “They confessed to wrongdoing and a charge has been filed against them.”
If found guilty, they face a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a 200,000 baht fine.
Officials launched an investigation after photos and videos of tourists posing with sea creatures surfaced on social media. Marine environmental watchdog page Monsoon Garbage Thailand, who first shared the photos on Thursday, also urged authorities to look into whether the tour operator is properly licensed.
Sirikwan Saengravee, manager of Jinyang Holiday Group, said the tourists were her clients and apologized for the incident.
“On behalf of the company, we are deeply saddened by this incident and we are ready to improve and take greater care of our customers,” Sirikwan said. “From now on, the company will instruct our diving instructors to remind our Chinese customers more firmly.”