Thais need educating that foreigners visiting Thailand are not targets – Thailand Foreign Minister

Thais need educating that foreigners visiting Thailand are not targets – Thailand Foreign Minister
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Editorial

Thailand’s high-value tourism industry has taken a battering courtesy of the country’s foreign minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, who said a campaign is needed to educate Thai people that foreigners visiting Thailand are worth a lot of money and are not targets.

The comments, published in The Bangkok Post’s Ministry in tourist safety drive, along with a proposal to install more closed circuit television cameras (CCTC) in 10 provincial cities and asking police to increase patrols along beaches and at other tourist spots, follows a brain-storming session at Thailand’s foreign ministry in response to the increasing number of complaints received by its embassies regarding the safety of foreigners visiting Thailand.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul need to educate Thai people that foreigners visiting Thailand are worth a lot of money and are not targets
Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul need to educate Thai people that foreigners visiting Thailand are worth a lot of money and are not targets. photo: MOFA

Thailand Foreign Minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, said the meeting discussed several measures to better protect foreigners visiting Thailand after more than 15 complaints were lodged recently at Thai embassies regarding the safety of foreign tourists in Thailand. (Ed. The original report did not define “recently”)

The meeting comes on the back of Thailand tops Australian death list on ninemsm earlier in the week, which used a single and largely irrelevant fact, that of allAustralian’s who die overseas, the majority occur in Thailand‚ while failing to add any science to the equation such as the number of Australian tourists visiting each destination, or the number of days those tourists spent in each country, for a rather sensationalist headline.

Increasing number of foreigners visiting Thailand having a bad experience

Noemi and Audrey Belanger, the latest unexplained deaths of foreigners visiting Thailand - found dead in their room at the Phi Phi Palm Residence Hotel
Noemi and Audrey Belanger, the latest unexplained deaths of foreigners visiting Thailand – found dead in their room at the Phi Phi Palm Residence Hotel. Photo: Courtesy Royal Thai Police

Irrespective of this, that an increasing number of foreigners visiting Thailand are sufficiently concerned to lodge written complaints seems without doubt, raising the question of how many foreigners visiting Thailand don’t write to embassies to complain about tourist safety in Thailand unanswered.

One Phuket newspaper recently launched a one person crusade against Phuket’s Reputation Being Ruined by Lies and Those Who Spread Them, particularly targeting the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

A read of the comments section is interesting, with the editor of the publication in question failing to miss a single opportunity to berate, humiliate or bully any contributor who dared to suggest any validity to the Swedish publications claim that “Phuket is now one of the world’s most dangerous places for foreign and domestic tourists and businessmen”.

While this is again somewhat of an exaggeration, in recent times in Thailand there has been:
a) A string of unexplained deaths of foreigners visiting Thailand at a hotel in Chiang Mai (Ed: the hotel is currently being demolished) (See: Chiang Mai tourist death probe finds no common link ‚ PR campaign launched to protect tourism industry)

b) Two Canadian sisters, Audrey and Noemi Belanger, found dead in their rented Phi Phi Palm Residence Hotel bungalow on Koh Phi Phi (See: Canadian Sisters Suffer Gruesome Death in Thai Hotel Room (Following the unexplained deaths of an American woman Jill St. Onge and Norwegian woman Julie Michelle Bergheim at the Laleena guesthouse on Koh Phi Phi in 2009 (See: Koh Phi Phi: 2 Tourists Suddenly Dead From Mystery Illness At Thai Resort.

c) The stabbing murder of 60-year-old Western Australian travel agent Michelle Smith in a bag-snatch gone wrong near the five-star Katathani Beach Resort in Kata Noi Bay, on Phuket’s west coast.

d) Nine drownings of foreigners visiting Thailand on Phuket’s west coast beaches between May 18 and July 24 2012.

Extortion and thuggery by Thailand Jet Ski operators

Lydia Riach from Scotland - killed in Bangkok in 2009 when a bag snatch went wrong.
Lydia Riach from Scotland – killed in Bangkok in 2009 when a bag snatch went wrong. photo: John Le Fevre

Add to this the almost daily reports of extortion and thuggery by Jet Ski operators in Pattaya and Phuket against foreigners visiting Thailand, along with almost daily news reports of foreigners visiting Thailand such as 63-year-old Australian Yasin Sharif, drugged and robbed after taking an alleged sex worker back to his hotel room in Pattaya and it’s easy to see how “target” is an appropriate word to use when it comes to describe the view some Thais have of foreigners visiting Thailand.

While the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which spearheads the spending of the more than $US7 million (Bt220 million) a year Thailand spends on international tourism promotion claims more than 19 million foreigners visited Thailand in 2011 and more than 21 million are forecast for 2012, a look at recent foreigners visiting Thailand figures shows the majority of foreigners visiting Thailand between January and June 2012 coming from China (943,161), Malaysia (916,367) and Russia (578,687), the vast majority of whom would not fail into TATs “big spenders” category.

That the best Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs can come up with is to install a few more CCTCs and employe a few information officers who can speak one or more foreign languages, shows either a lack of imagination, or the lack of importance the Thailand government sees in the tourism industry.

A foreign tourist to Thailand falls victim to Pattaya's infamous and long-running Jet-Ski damage scam
A foreign tourist to Thailand falls victim to Pattaya’s infamous and long-running Jet-Ski damage scam. Photo: John Le Fevre

With more than $US24.3 billion (Bt776 billion) ‚Äì about six percent of Thailand’s GDP, expected to be injected into the economy officially in 2012 by foreigners visiting Thailand, making tourists feel safer should be a priority worthy of more than just a few CCTCs.

Likewise an answer needs to be urgently found to the mystery of why more foreigners visiting Thailand appear to leap / fall off balconies in Pattaya than visitors to anywhere else in the world.

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John Le Fevre

Thailand editor/ managing editor at AEC News Today

John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 40 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and copy editor.

He is currently Thailand editor/ managing editor for AEC News Today

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

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3 Responses to "Thais need educating that foreigners visiting Thailand are not targets – Thailand Foreign Minister"

  1. Stephan Wiedemann   July 29, 2012 at 11:44 am

    John, a few comments and clarifications: 1) Sometimes I believe that the true meaning of quotes are lost in translation. The BKK Post uses the word “revenue” rather than “money”, which would give Surapong’s comments more substance and less sensation. Would be interesting to get hold of a Thai language news report on the matter 2) Having said that: brain-storming session in the Foreign Ministery – what brains? 3) $26 billion TAT promotion spending vs $25 million revenues expected from tourism in 2012 – possibly the numbers should be reversed?

    • John Le Fevre   July 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Hello Stephen,

      Thanks for reading. Yes you are absolutely correct. I went back and checked the sources for those figures and there are now links pointing to them.

      My mistake for not interpreting Bt760, 000 million as being Bt766 billion correctly. Thanks for pointing that out. Corrected now.

      The odd thing is that TAT says foreign tourists generated more than Bt766 billion in 2011 and that this was a 31% increase over 2010, while in 2012 TAT says revenue will increase to Bt766 billion “a 28% increase over 2011” figures.

      Miracle Thailand.

  2. tom   July 29, 2012 at 10:40 am

    until they produce a book of instructions in comic book formant, no words, the generally illitearte population will remain uninformed about matters of manners and conduct

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