Below is an overview of the Thai crime situation, aimed at giving you an idea of what to expect when visiting or living in Thailand.
In general, Thailand is a safer place to be than most places in the West. Crimes against tourists are relatively rare and minor but, like everywhere in the world, crime is present and sometimes tourists to Thailand are victims.
There are certain areas that tourists should avoid when visiting Thailand. The Royal Thai Police has a respectable level of dealing with crime and law enforcement while the police are helpful and will readily assist visitors.
In Bangkok the usual crimes are pick-pocketing and bag snatching so it is wise not to walk around with too much cash or valuables – just as in every large city throughout the world. Women especially should not visit isolated areas alone or during night times and it is best to visit pubs and nightclubs in a group. As long as the same common sense precautions are taken as anywhere else foreigners are as safe as in Bangkok as in any big city.
Along with the regular police Thailand has a special Tourist Police force where the operators are multilingual and is a toll free number. The Tourist Police are usually quite trustworthy and reasonable and often have adequate to good English skills especially in the larger towns.
Foreigners who dress well and behave well are treated with high respect by the Thai police and if they are treated with respect they in turn will respect you. In Thai society keeping calm is very important and this includes with the police. Hotheads are considered dangerous to other people in additional to a danger to themselves and are dealt with by a decisive and swift display of force. If you stay calm you are treated reasonably and without force.
Thailand has a large number of organised crime groups which derive enormous profits from activities such as gambling, drug dealing, gun running, trafficking in people and prostitution. Although there are many good and honest policemen in Thailand others are known to be behind these trades and activities which overall makes the police one of the major forces in organised crime.
Safeguarding the welfare of Thai women and children is a national priority for the Government of Thailand and of particular concern to the Government is the exploitation of children. Whilst child prostitution is not unique to Thailand its existence is repugnant to the Thai people. Thai society and culture is based on close family ties and religion which are in direct conflict with the forced exploitation of individuals, particular children, for sexual or any other purpose. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand and sexual contact with minors is a criminal offence. Sexual intercourse with a minor is statutory rape and is punishable by imprisonment. Thai laws were strengthened in 1996 by new legislation which significantly increased the penalties for those caught engaging in sex with a minor.
The Government works closely with law enforcement agencies throughout the world to attack the problem from the outside. Part of these efforts is aimed at preventing known sex offenders and publishers of pornography from entering Thailand. Foreign nationals are not exempt from Thai law.
Thailand has some of the worst and most notorious prisons around, from “The Big Tiger” to the “Bangkok Hilton”, Bangkwang, Lard Yao Men and Women's prisons and several more. The investigation and prosecution of crimes is the responsibility of local authorities, but consular officers can help you understand the local criminal justice process and provide you with a list of lawyers if needed.
Police Emergency Number: 191
Police Routine Number: 053-276-040
Tourist Police: 1155
Violence directed at the current Thai government in southern Thailand is an ongoing problem and is predicted to continue into the near future. Unrest following the election of a new prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat of the People Power Party (PPP) on 17th September, means many people are sitting on the fence to see what becomes Thailand’s political crisis, while the current situation is of course hardly sustainable in the long term.
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