Tour buses hit with unexpected fine at national park in central Vietnam

By Khanh An, Thanh Nien News

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Foreign tourists wait by the roadside after park rangers stopped their bus for parking at an unallowed place in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Photo credit: Tien Phong Foreign tourists wait by the roadside after park rangers stopped their bus for parking at an unallowed place in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. Photo credit: Tien Phong

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A national park in central Vietnam has fined a travel company for bringing tourists to restricted zones but the latter complained that it did not deserve the penalty. 
On Tuesday morning park rangers at the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province spotted two buses of Le Mitchell Tours with a total of 18 foreign tourists parking on Road 20.
The drivers were then ordered to pay a fine of VND500,000 (US$22) for stopping at what the rangers described as prohibited areas.
As they refused to sign violation reports, their buses were held up and the tourists were forced to wait for hours. The company finally agreed to pay the fines in the afternoon. 
Dinh Huy Tri, the park’s deputy director, said the company's buses have been caught with similar violations despite multiple warnings from his team.
However, Le Thi Bich, chairwoman of Le Mitchell Tours, told Thanh Nien News that buses of many other tourist companies have also parked at the same spots. 
"There is no warning sign at those places," she said.
Benjamin Mitchell, the company's director, rejected accusations that his drivers have violated regulations before. 
“They have no proof of us violating regulations despite repeated warnings, because we wouldn't do that and have not done that,” he told Thanh Nien News.
“Other tour groups stopped at the same spots on the day at the same time... They were not detained or asked to sign papers.”
Mitchell said the company’s tourists have brought tourists to the road to take pictures of the park “every morning for the last five years.”
He said his company was the first business to promote tourism at Phong Nha five years ago and has always respected the law.
“We are saddened by the way the National Park operates when they behave this way.”
Bich said Le Mitchell has suspended its buses to the park and will hire another company to take their tourists to the attraction for fear that their drivers could be punished for “unknown reasons."

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