Police raid fails to stop Ekkamai condo’s Chinese Airbnb listings

Tourist police on Thursday at the C Ekkamai condo in Bangkok. Photo: Tourist Police Bureau
Tourist police on Thursday at the C Ekkamai condo in Bangkok. Photo: Tourist Police Bureau

Numerous Airbnb listings remained active today for an Ekkamai condo raided by the cops and allegedly used as an unlicensed hotel by Chinese operators.

More than a dozen such ads, written in Chinese, featured rooms at C Ekkamai for about THB1,300 (US$40) per night, four days after complaints drew a combined force of tourist and immigration police officers to investigate last week. Seven people, including one foreigner and several room owners, were fined for various code and immigration offenses. The law requires venues report foreign occupants to the Immigration Bureau.

The bureau took action in response to a growing clamor of frustrated C Ekkamai residents who had created a Facebook page to draw attention to the problem. The page admin wrote on May 17 that a Chinese firm was operating an expansive business inside the building and renting the rooms via Airbnb and Booking.com.

Offering short-term rentals of more than four rooms without a hotel license is also illegal, though hundreds of such venues operate openly throughout the capital.

The announcement by the Tourist Police drew dozens of appreciative comments from those annoyed by tourists traipsing through their high-end condominium properties. Loft-style rooms at C Ekkamai start at THB5.7 million, according to the property’s web site. Small single bedrooms are listed for about THB4 million.

“They made loud noise, always smoking and dirty and annoying neighboring rooms, who wouldn’t report them,” Facebook user Weerakiat Chumsawatwong wrote in response.

“Thank you so much, I’m glad that government officials listened to the other residents!” user Natchanok Angsanaporn wrote.

Listings on Airbnb for rooms at the C Ekkamai condo project on Bangkok's Ekkamai Road as shown on the site Monday. Image: Airbnb.com
Listings on Airbnb for rooms at the C Ekkamai condo project on Bangkok’s Ekkamai Road as shown on the site Monday. Image: Airbnb.com

Gipza Samrong warned that it could cause economic harm.

“Act like this and tourists won’t want to come to Thailand,” he wrote.

Touting its success, Airbnb has said last year the Thai market had blossomed into more than 60,000 listings generating THB4 billion (US$125.8 million) in one year.

The first definitive court case against those listings came one year ago in Hua Hin, when two operators were fined for offering short-term rentals. The odds of prosecution seem low, given that of the 60,000-plus rooms, those are the only two known convictions.

Operating an unlicensed hotel is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of THB20,000 plus a daily penalty. Short-term “homestay” leases of fewer than five rooms may be exempt under the law. Either way, Thai authorities have since said that they won’t prosecute Airbnb providers renting their own homes so long as they register them for free with the Local Administration Department.

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