Is Thailand still safe for foreigners?By Casey Hynes Sep 02, 2013 12:03PM UTC
Violent attacks and poor safety standards raise tourist safety concerns in Thailand
If you follow news in Thailand at all, you’ll have noticed a spate of recent reports on grisly deaths and attacks on tourists and ex-pats in the country. While Thailand is often seen as a paradise for vacationers and ex-pats, these instances raise questions about exactly how safe the country is for foreigners.
Last week, a British man was stabbed in the neck by a drunk Thai man in Pattaya. He survived, and is reportedly in critical but stable condition in hospital.
Indeed, August saw a number of bizarre and disturbing stories, including the drive-by shooting of a Russian man in Phuket (he survived).
A German man was assaulted by a motorbike driver in Pattaya on August 20, and on August 18, a Japanese man was drugged and robbed in Pathumthani province, according to Khaosod. Another German man was mugged in Phuket around the same time.
And that’s just in August. July saw the grisly murders of two American men, one who was stabbed to death by a taxi driver in Bangkok, and another who was stabbed to death by three band members when he wouldn’t stop singing.
These chilling deaths are unfortunately not uncommon news coming out of Thailand. An ex-pat was shot in Chiang Mai after a bar fight he did not participate in earlier this summer, and a tourist was accidentally shot and killed at the New Year’s Eve Full Moon Party on January 1.
However, drunken attacks and muggings are not the only concerns in Thailand. Lack of security, oversight and safety measures have resulted in multiple tragic deaths.
Two Chinese tourists died during a speedboat accident earlier this week, when a boat they were on hit the anchor rope of another boat. In May, a Chinese tourist drowned while snorkeling during a day-trip.
The blog Staying Safe Abroad noted a number of other drowning deaths off Thailand’s beaches and called for diplomats to pressure Thailand for greater safety measures to be implemented.
The horror stories go on, as do reports of bus crashes in the country, including one in August in which 26 Russian tourists were injured. Twenty-three tourists of several nationalities were injured in July when a train they were on derailed.
While some might argue that accidents happen everywhere, it seems there are multiple stories about muggings, attacks, murders, and tragic, avoidable accidents coming out of the country each week. Anyone who has spent time at many of Thailand’s beaches and participated in some of the attractions has seen the lack of safety precautions. People can rent snorkel equipment and boats without demonstrating any competence at all, and transportation not infrequently involves trucks loaded far beyond their capacity with drunk tourists hoping to make it to a party destination.
Random acts of theft and violence occur in the North as well, making it all the more necessary for tourists and ex-pats to be aware of the dangers here. Thailand is a beautiful country with much to recommend it, but things like high rates of road deaths and crime may begin to give people pause as to whether it’s a sound place to live and travel.
To read ex-pat forums in which people comment about the state of affairs here paints a grim picture indeed, one in which little punishment is likely even in the case of violent assaults and murders. So what incentive is there for people to refrain from drunkenly attacking people, robbing them or stabbing them to death?
In May, Chinese Ambassador to Thailand Guan Mu accused Phuket police of being corrupt and taking advantage of tourists, and emphasized a desire to see improved communication with and treatment toward tourists, according to Phuket Wan.
Incentives for businesses to require some proof of insurance or training when renting motorbikes or other potentially dangerous equipment might help curb the accident and death rates there. Greater oversight when it comes to the maintenance of buses and trains, and shifts being worked by bus drivers, might go a long way toward avoiding accidents.
As someone who has spent some time enjoying the life in Thailand and appreciating its virtues, it is alarming and disconcerting to read about the tragic, needless deaths and apparent lack of action to prevent more of them from happening.