Bangkok (AFP) - A packed tourist ferry sank Sunday off the Thai resort of Pattaya, killing six passengers including three foreigners in the latest deadly incident to tarnish the kingdom's image as a tourism haven.
Fifteen people were also seriously injured, according to police in Pattaya, a popular beach resort south of Bangkok renowned for its racy nightlife.
Reports said a Russian child was among those seriously hurt.
"So far there are six dead from the boat," Pattaya police chief Colonel Suwarn Chiewnawintawat told AFP, adding three Thais, a Chinese and two other -- as yet unidentified -- foreigners were among the dead.
Television footage showed stunned tourists being led to safety on shore where they were met by dozens of ambulances along Pattaya's neon-lit beachfront.
Playing down earlier reports that people remained trapped in the stricken vessel, he said all of the other 150 passengers had been plucked from the sea.
The double-decker ferry sank on Sunday afternoon near Koh Larn, a small island close to Pattaya which is popular with daytrippers.
Police said they are probing the cause of the accident as local media reports blamed an engine problem on the overcrowded ferry for causing passengers to run to one side of the boat, which forced it to list.
Confirming the toll a second policeman told AFP that the frantic relatives of the passengers alerted local emergency services to the disaster at around 5pm local time (1100 GMT), sparking the rescue effort.
Russian news reports said three Russians, including a child, had been taken to hospital in a serious condition.
"At least half of the passengers were Russian tourists," a Russian embassy official in Bangkok was quoted as saying by the Ria Novosti news agency.
Renowned for its strip clubs and bars and cheap accommodation, Pattaya is one of Thailand's most popular resort areas and has become wildly popular as a package holiday destination for Russians.
It is around 150 kilometres (100 miles) from Bangkok.
Thailand drew 22 million tourists last year, but is struggling to shake off a reputation for lax safety standards after a series of incidents -- many of them fatal.
In May more than 100 people were rescued from a tourist ferry which began to sink in rough seas near the tourist island of Phuket after it was hit by a big wave.
Four people, including tourists died in a nightclub fire in August 2012 also on Phuket, while there have also been slew of high-profile cases of foreigners being murdered, drugged or caught up in tourist cons.
In July, an American tourist was allegedly stabbed to death by three Thai musicians after he refused to stop singing at a bar. His death came weeks the murder of another US citizen in a row with a taxi driver in Bangkok.
Diplomats from China and the European Union have voiced concern at the number of fatal incidents involving their tourists.In recent years the kingdom's tourist-friendly image as "the Land of Smiles" has also been tarnished by political violence and devastating floods.