Thailand celebrated 10 million foreign tourist arrivals for the year on Saturday, with celebrations taking place at seven airports and two immigration checkpoints. Now scam artists and criminals are back on the prowl in Thailand now that the country has reopened to foreign tourists, so tourist police are stepping up efforts to protect foreign visitors.
The Tourism and Sports Ministry hosted an event called “Amazing Thailand 10 Million Celebrations” to highlight the steady recovery of the vital tourism industry following a Covid-induced downturn that lasted more than two years.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was at Suvarnabhumi Airport to greet the year’s ten millionth visitor, who arrived on a flight from Saudi Arabia.
According to Pol Lt Gen Sukhun Prommayon, commissioner of the Tourist Police Bureau (TPB), the majority of visitors come from neighboring countries, with Malaysia having the highest number, followed by India, Laos, Cambodia, and Singapore.
Visitors from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany are also arriving in large numbers, he said, adding that police are implementing measures to ensure tourist safety.
He told the Bangkok Post that bicycle, motorcycle, and car patrols are being increased in several provinces with major tourist attractions.
Scammers have returned to Thailand
With the influx of foreign visitors, he said, con artists are returning to the streets to prey on overseas visitors in tourist hotspots.
Con artists, including taxi or tuk-tuk drivers, are frequently seen near the entrances to major tourist attractions or temples. They inform unsuspecting foreigners that the store is “closed” and direct them elsewhere to shop.
Some victims are taken to tailors or jewelry stores, where they are duped into purchasing low-quality or worthless items at exorbitant prices, according to Pol Lt Gen Sukhun.
Tourist police are collaborating with immigration and local officers to address the issue, and warning signs have been placed at airports and other tourist destinations.
Foreign visitors can contact the TPB’s emergency response center by dialing 1155, which can provide assistance in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Indian, and Arabic, he said.
They can also use the free “Tourist Police I Lert U” mobile app to contact police around the clock if they require assistance. The app, which is available in English and Thai, is linked to the emergency response center 1155.
Those in need of assistance can take a photo of an incident and upload it through the app to contact the TPB, which will dispatch officers to the scene immediately.
“We are trying to make the most use of modern technology to support our work. “We also put up signs at airports and other locations encouraging foreign visitors to download the app or contact the 1155 center,” Pol Lt Gen Sukhun explained.
Improved Security by Tourist Police
He said the app would be renamed “Thailand Tourist Police” to accommodate an expected surge in foreign arrivals.
According to him, a data center will be established at TPB headquarters at Suvarnabhumi airport, which will be linked to a system that analyzes information about suspects in the police force’s database.
According to him, tourist police will also wear body cameras to record interactions with others, and license plate recognition cameras will be installed in police patrol vehicles.
A system will also be developed to integrate and analyze footage from surveillance cameras at the country’s 33 tourist police stations.
“When tourists alert police through the Thailand Tourist Police app, the information is distributed to all 33 tourist police stations as well as other local stations,” Pol Lt Gen Sukhun explained.
He added that the TPB wants to emphasize the safety of foreign visitors in major tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, and the Surat Thani district of Koh Samui, because problems vary by location.
Criminals who prey on tourists
Many tourists visit Bangkok for the first time, and they may encounter issues with taxi or tuk-tuk drivers, particularly those who work with rip-off artists, he said.
“To combat these scammers, tourist police are collaborating with the Department of Business Development, the Commerce Ministry, and the Tourism and Sports Ministry,” he said.
In Phuket and Samui, police are looking for local criminals who prey on foreign tourists. According to Pol Lt Gen Sukhun, some are drug addicts or former convicts who may reoffend by committing rape or theft.
Tourist police are collaborating with local authorities and police to monitor former convicts and to encourage residents to support police efforts to maintain law and order.” According to Pol Lt Gen Sukhun.
The majority of foreign visitors to Pattaya and Chon Buri are now from India, but tourists from Europe are also returning in large numbers.
He said there have been numerous reports of transvestites or ladyboys swindling, robbing, and attacking foreign tourists in Pattaya.
These crimes were low during the pandemic, but have since increased since the country reopened to tourists, he added.
He added that on December 2, police arrested two transvestites for stealing a gold necklace from a Russian tourist named Artem Kurisev in Pattaya.
Prior to the pandemic, the majority of foreign visitors to Chiang Mai came from China and South Korea. Many of them are currently from Europe, and they enjoy exploring the northern province’s forests, mountains, and hot springs, according to Pol Lt Gen Sukhun.
He stated that police must ensure their safety as well as prevent any potential clashes between tourists and local villagers.
The TPB also collaborates with the Department of Tourism to inspect adventure tourism facilities on a regular basis to ensure they meet safety standards, he added. If they do not comply, their operating licenses will be revoked immediately, he added.