CHIANG RAI – Thai people are remarkably relaxed and easy going. Buddhist philosophy discourages ‘hot bloodedness’. Politeness is ingrained from birth and most Thai people are both scrupulously honest and very unwilling to be intrusive.
Even so, Europeans and Americans are universally viewed as wealthy and this leads to temptation. Some Thai’s have learnt to prey upon travellers and expats and in Thailand, crime can be a threat as much as it can in any other country. In matters of honour, business and love, Thai people can be transformed. ‘Hot bloodedness’ so frowned upon in Buddhist teaching can overwhelm individuals with fatal consequences.
Gun crime is most often related to gang wars There is a serious problem of organized drug crime in the border areas with Burma, Cambodia and Laos. Guns are also often used to settle business disputes and jealous lovers- both men and women- use guns to settle scores depressingly often.
A few foreigners each year are caught in the cross fire. An unknown number of foreigners (a few dozen, maybe) are murdered deliberately mainly as a result of business disputes but sometimes by jealous or abandoned lovers. There are occasional reports of foreign men being murdered by their Thai wives for money or property,
Thailand’s kids are some of the best behaved and likable kids in the world. Unfortunately, the number of murders committed by teenagers is frighteningly high- more than 1,400 in the last recorded year. Again, guns were the favorite weapon. Often the reasons for the murders are trivial matters of perceived disrespect.
Perception of Crime in Thailand
There is a widespread perception that crime is a serious problem amongst both Thais and expatriates. The local government in Phuket recently identified crime as being the biggest brake on the development of the tourist industry. Many expatriates believe crime levels in Thailand are as bad or worse than in their home countries, despite the statistics and in major tourist areas like Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Samui, this may be true.
Crimes against Foreigners
Scams are common in Bangkok. In fact, scammers are the first Thais you are likely to have contact with on arrival at the airport. The touts will offer tours which are overpriced and hotels which are dingy and expensive.
The best option is to queue for one of the official taxis that, for 600 bt, will take you into central Bangkok to a hotel of your choice.
Away from the airport, taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers are most often the scammers in Bangkok. If you need a taxi, hail one of the thousands of brightly painted cabs with a Taxi-Meter sign on its roof. If the driver switches on the meter, all is well. The legal fares are not expensive. If the taxi driver doesn’t switch on the meter it is best to get out at the first opportunity. The fare will be exorbitant and he will try any line to keep you in the back of his taxi..
Most especially, beware of taxi drivers offering tours. These will include visits to grossly expensive shops and restaurants from whom the taxi driver will get commission.
Taxi drivers sometimes pick up their victims outside famous monuments claiming falsely that the monument is closed. They then offer their own alternative tour.
Most ordinary taxi drivers don’t speak English and don’t know Bangkok well (truly). Offering the driver a map- tourist maps are easy to find- is the best way to get to a destination. Hotel staff will write directions in Thai if you ask them.
Avoid touts offering to take you to a gemstone shop. They will sell at hugely inflated prices. The gem scam is famous enough to have it’s own wikipedia entry.
The Easiest Way for a Man to Get Beaten Up (or perhaps even killed)
Go into a bar for Thai and start hitting on the young women. This is going to antagonize someone.
Almost every young woman will have a boyfriend or a string of young men, each of whom who wants to be a boyfriend.
Even if you get encouragement from the woman (who might be flattered or might be thinking of money) this could easily end with an outraged Thai man getting his friends together to ambush you later.
In Bangkok, Tuk Tuks routinely overcharge foreigners. In Phuket it sometimes amounts to money demanded with menaces. Small journeys attract exorbitant fees and if travelers refuse to pay, they can find themselves attacked.
The police are generally not too interested if you complain.
Street robberies are usually only a problem in highly commercialized areas like Phuket, Ko Samui and Pattaya. Large numbers of tourists with cash to spend attract criminal gangs. Ko Samui is notorious for bag snatching with gang members on motor cycles. Pattaya has a history of serious assaults during street robberies at night- often on drinkers walking home in the early hours. In Phuket, car drivers are stopped and robbed from time to time in the back streets and foreigners have been knocked from motor cycles and robbed.
Avoid back streets at night!
Given the many millions of tourists in Thailand each year, sexual assaults on visitors are very rare. Even so, they do happen and both men and women have been targeted. Keep a clear head and be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you sense any problems leave immediately. Remember there is safety in numbers.
There have been occasional, unsubstantiated reports of travelers being given drugged food before being robbed or assaulted.
Russian mafia, English gangsters, paedophiles of every nationality, fraudsters and conmen- the main tourist areas of Thailand attract a bad crowd.
In a recent case, an elderly American retiree was shot after a very public internet row on a popular forum. He was resisting payment of exorbitant water rates demanded by an English property developer. The developer claimed the row had destroyed his ‘business’. After the shooting, the Englishman fled. It was revealed that he was wanted as a leader of a drug gang in the UK.
It is never a good idea to buy property in Thailand through the internet or from ads in local papers without a lot of advise from locals. Property laws are complex and lawyers and developers should be suspect unless well recomended by people with nothing to gain.
Recently, Hua Hin has seen a string of murders of foreigners involved in the recession hit property business.
Rural Thais are usually kind, open and helpful people. There are still dangers though. It is well known for quiet country roads to be blocked at night and travellers to be robbed. Also young Thai men are as capable of violence as any other men in the world. Young travellers should be aware of insensitivity and drunkeness in quiet communities.
Full Moon Parties
There have been incidents when foreigners have been assaulted by local men at full moon parties on Islands near Ko Samui.
Crime committed by Foreigners
This is the crime of insulting the King of Thailand or the monarchy. It is taken very seriously and can result in long prison terms. Generally, foreigners are pardoned by the King and deported but only after a long stay in detention prior to trial.
All forms of gambling in Thailand are crimes except for the national lottery. Illegal card games are a national addiction, usually held in hotel rooms or back rooms of clubs and snooker halls.
Police enforce anti-gambling laws strictly and in many communities it is the cause of most arrests. Never get caught with cards and money on the same table.
Tackling drug crime is a high priority for the Thai authorities. Police have the power to stop and search suspects, their vehicles and their homes without a warrant. Sting operations are sometimes used to catch drug users. Clubs may be raided and urine samples taken for analysis. Anyone proving positive will be charged. Amphetamines are a commonly abused drug.
Thai sentencing regimes are very variable, ranging from fines and deportation for possessing small quantities of marijuana to decade’s long jail terms for drug dealing.
Recently the new government has sworn to wage a new ‘War on Drugs’. During the previous ‘War on Drugs’, arrests increased threefold, sentences became harsher and 2,500 Thai’s died at the hands of police.
Trafficking can attract the death penalty- which is very bad for your health.
Passport or visa irregularities often result in a jail sentence of at least one year. Some companies and tour shops in the larger tourist centers offer to extend visas without the need to visit an immigration centre or leave the country. They then forge stamps in the passport which can lead to arrest when you try to leave Thailand.
You may be refused entry to Thailand if your passport is damaged, especially if any pages are missing.
Copyright and Illegal Software.
Ordinary Thais use pirate copies of Windows and other programs as a matter of course. Any computer shop will provide a full software package for free if you have an upgrade or need a repair.
Lately, though, Thai authorities are taking a tougher line on intellectual property and copyright infringement by businesses. Among other measures, a recent law gives almost any government body the right to search computers for illegal software without warrants. Dedicated enforcement units will raid businesses on tip offs. Staff are offered large rewards for turning in employers using illegal programs. Heavy penalties can result.
Thai Internet Laws
All Internet traffic is logged by ISP’s in Thailand. Data and identities of surfers are retained for at least 90 days, Crimes range from hacking and fraud to lese majeste. All Internet pornography is illegal in Thailand.
Pirated Cd’s, counterfeit watches, clothes, cell phones and almost any kind of fake goods you can imagine are on open sale in markets all over Thailand. The police occasionally take an interest and arrest a few sellers. If you take fake goods back with you, customs in your country may arrest you on arrival.
Prostitution is illegal but the law is rarely enforced. Even the most remote rural community has some form of paid sex available- usually through a karaoke bar.
In the last few years, underage prostitution (involving girls less than 18) has become a serious priority for police with many arrests.
Conditions in Thai prisons are generally poor with serious overcrowding and sometimes problems of TB, AIDs and poor medical treatment. Best avoided.
Thailand Visa Overstay
Longer term visas can be obtained legally in a variety of ways. The rules are constantly altered and a visit to the Thai Visa Forum is recommended. Visa-and-Immigration-Forums
Thailand’s Deep South
A long running Muslim-Buddhist conflict has brought violence and crime to three of Thailand’s, mostly Muslim, provinces on the Malaysia border.
Most foreign countries advise against visits to Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. – by Will Apse