Given the news of two British travellers murdered in Koh Tao a lot of the conversations I’ve had about Thailand of late has been about crime and safety. It’s not something I was planning on writing about so soon in my blog but given what’s gone on then I thought it best to address it and hopefully reassure people who are worried about it.
This article only deals with being the target of crime, rather than tourists being accused or arrested. That’s another good topic, one I hope to get to later.
Crime does happen
First off, let’s be honest. Crime happens everywhere, and Thailand is no exception. While we don’t think about it, or at least not much, on holiday, the chances of being caught up or targeted do not disappear.
Indeed, tourism tends to attract a degree of crime. Where there are tourists, otherwise relaxed or distracted, off their guard there will be opportunists hoping to take advantage. From pickpockets targeting visitors to the Eiffel Tower, to people trying to overcharge for services or relying on misunderstandings to short change people, being a tourist sadly comes with a risk of being a target for crime. It is important to remember this.
However, violent crime against tourists is rare. It does happen, even in Thailand. Armed robbery form a small percentage of all robberies. Even more serious crimes like rape and murder do happen but are rarer still. Four million trips were made from the UK last year to Thailand, the vast majority (I’d say 99.9999% but I cannot find any good, authoritative figure) came home without incident.
Your major risks in Thailand tend to be corruption, petty theft, or other traditional tourist targeting scams.
The “Good” News
Furthermore, countries like Thailand where tourism makes up a consider able percentage of the economy make considerable efforts to keep tourists safe. Even if it is only so tourists aren’t put off by crime to other tourists, authorities have a vested interest in minimising the risk and harm to tourists.
Thailand has section of the police force – the Tourist Police – dedicated to protecting and assisting tourists in major tourist centres. These police tend to be quite visible, with manned booths or stations near or in major tourist areas and attractions, and are equipped for dealing with foreigners (for example, they will often have quick access to officers who speak other languages). If you need police assistance the Tourist Police should be your first target.
Additionally, major tourist sites have increasing surveillance in the form of CCTV cameras – even traditional full moon party beaches have them. And in the wake of the latest sad case, the authorities have been coming up with new ideas (however likely to work) to keep people safe.
And violent crimes against tourists in Thailand generate a major police response. Whilst if you are a victim this might be of little comfort, but it does act as a significant deterrent.
So what can you do to keep safe? There are some precautions you can take to lessen your vulnerability. Most of these are common sense:
- Avoid displaying too much wealth, such as flashing lots money about, and thus draw attention to yourself.
- Likewise, avoid carrying anything you don’t want to lose, like an iPad.
- Make sure bags that you carry around with you are as visible to you as possible, and not easy for someone going past to snatch.
- Alcohol is a factor in a lot of tourist crime. Be careful how much you’re drinking so you are not affected by alcohol, or appear to be (which makes you a target. The same is applicable for drugs – if you seem out of it at all then you’ll draw attention as a target.
- Stick to busier areas and at night make sure areas are well lit.
By following your instincts and using common sense you can reduce the chances you’ll be the target of some sort of criminal activity.