One of the biggest issues for expats living in Thailand and for visiting tourists is the question of safety and security. Although I have personally not faced any serious issues in the 19 years that I have lived and worked in Thailand, I do recognize the fact that crimes against foreigners seem to be on the rise. In addition to this, there also seems to be a rise in the number of fatalities on the roads and of foreigners being murdered.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Thailand is more dangerous than what it was when I first came here. There are far more expats and tourists here now. So, it is not surprising that there are now serious incidents nearly every day. Another reason why it may seem that there are more crimes against foreigners is the rise in popularity of social media. We are now getting to hear about news that just wasn’t reported before. Take my @191Thailand account as an example. The majority of fatal bus crashes that I tweet about never reach the Bangkok Post or The Nation. Same goes for deaths of foreigners.
A little while ago, I tweeted asking my followers if they thought that embassies in Thailand were doing enough to warn their citizens of the dangers of travelling inside Thailand. Many said that more could be done by the embassies to make it safer for foreigners in Thailand. But, is that really fair? Like @thaicam said in reply to my tweet, “travelers have been warned for years online and by word of mouth. It’s the Thai authorities who need to clamp down”. I think we both agree that the Thai side is where the problem lies. After all, in recent months, foreign ambassadors have been very active in trying to find solutions to tourism issues. They have been listening to expats and tourists who have posted about their problems on social media and forums like ThaiVisa. They have also been touring the country visiting the relevant authorities to find out what needs to be done. In many places they were given promises that things will get better soon. But, as we all know, these visits and promises have to be followed up if anything is to be achieved.
To the credit of these ambassadors, this is exactly what they have been doing behind the scenes. I know how frustrating it can be for them as their hands are often tied as they are living and working in a foreign country. But, they are persisting. I spotted this picture posted on the Facebook page of a friend of mine (he is second from the left). Here you can see British Ambassador Mark Kent who was meeting with the Minister of Tourism last week to discuss problems being faced by foreigners. And this week, 18 ambassadors and senior diplomats from Europe will be meeting in Phuket for a briefing on tourism issues. This will be followed later by a meeting with Thailand’s top police officers. I am not going to get too optimistic, but as the ambassadors are getting more vocal now I think real change is in the wind. Particulary after the Chinese Ambassador was quoted as saying “‘Police are corrupt in Thailand. Some of them use their positions of power to rip off tourists”.
To get back to my original question of whether foreign embassies in Bangkok are doing enough to warn their citizens of the dangers in Thailand. I received two replies from foreign ambassadors who are active on social media. The reply above is from British Ambassador Mark Kent and the one below is from Canadian Ambassador Phil Calvert. Both of them point out links to their websites where there is travel advice. I recently re-read them for the first time in a year or so and I must say I don’t think there is more they can say or do. Here are just a few quotes from the British Embassy website: “Western tourists have been victims of vicious, unprovoked attacks by gangs in Koh Phangan”, “There have been sexual assaults against foreign men and women”, “There have been a number of accidents involving overnight coach travel” and a lot more like this. If people don’t read the advice of their embassy then they can only blame themselves for not being properly prepared. Like I said many times before, tourists are often their own worst enemy when travelling abroad. If you take sensible precautions, like wearing helmets on motorcycles and only travelling on registered transport, then your holiday in Thailand will go much smoother.
What do you think? Can the embassadors and embassies do more to make it safer for us here in Thailand? Is it really their duty? Shouldn’t the responsibility be with the Thai authorities? After all, they are the ones making money from tourism.