Several stories have appeared in the media recently that might give some the impression Thailand is becoming more dangerous for foreigners travelling and living here.
One involved an altercation between a Thai taxi driver and a foreign passenger in Bangkok which resulted in the foreigner’s death.
Another occurred in Chiang Mai where a drunken college student began shooting in a restaurant and wounded three foreigners.
And in Phuket a Russian man was assaulted and threatened with a gun by a jealous Thai boyfriend of a girl he had become friendly with.
And then there was the rape of a Dutch teenager last year while on holiday in Krabi.
Several stories have been reported by the international media on transportation accidents, including a bus incident in Saraburi last month that killed 19 people, though none were foreigners.
There was also the derailing of a sleeper train to Chiang Mai in which 18 foreigners were injured, and a bus accident in April that killed five people, including a Belgian woman, in Phitsanulok.
In response to these stories reported by the foreign press, Deputy Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul issued a statement assuring the world that tourist safety was a top government priority.
And Pol Maj Gen Roy Inkapairoj, commander of the Tourist Police Division, insisted “But that doesn’t mean that Thailand is unsafe for tourists. When something happens to tourists, police make an effort to catch a suspect or suspects as fast as we can.”
Last year the tourist police received 3,119 cases, an increase of 26.6% over the 2011 figures. Of these, 82% involved theft or the loss of valuables or documents, 15% involved scams, and 3% involved physical assault or spiked drinks.
But during the first four months of 2013, the number of physical assaults on foreigners (87) has already surpassed the total for all of last year.
“The situation is tense,” admits Pol Maj Gen Roy, “but it is still in hand. Although our workforce remains the same, the number of foreign tourists has increased every year. We have managed to keep the ratio down to less than 20 criminal cases per 100,000 tourists. ”
He says every country has bad guys, and advises tourists to avoid doing things that put themselves at risk, such as walking around alone at night in deserted places or going around with complete strangers.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, Thailand ranks in 10th place in terms of road-accident fatalities. India is #1, followed by China, Brazil, the US and Indonesia.
In Southeast Asia, Indonesia had the most deaths caused by road accidents, followed by Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Brunei.
The report also said that while worldwide 50% of road traffic deaths were motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists, in Thailand 72% of the deaths were either motorcyclists or motorised three-wheeled vehicles.
And while alcohol consumption remains a major cause of road accidents in Thailand, another factor is recklessness on the part of tourists, according to research done by Thammasat University. Many rent motorcycles without a license and with little or no driving experience. Most polled said they’d drink and drive and would exceed the speed limit. Image/Bangkok Post