Diplomats call for crime clean up
BANGKOK, 13 July 2012: Foreign diplomats called on the Thai government to clamp down on extortion and scams that target foreign tourists at popular destinations throughout the country.
Ministry of Tourism and Sports permanent secretary, Suwat Sidthilaw, said on Wednesday that diplomats from 10 countries identified extortion, scams and organised crime as a major deterrent to improving tourism to Thailand.
They asked if any progress had been made since the countries lodged official complaints three months ago.
At the close of the meeting with the minister, diplomats said they were pleased by the ministry’s decision to send monthly reports on progress in the fight against crime targeting tourists.
Most of the incidents are scams related to taxis and jet ski operators.
The minister said reports would be sent to the prime minister as well.
The diplomats said they would pass on details of the reports to their nationals to brief them on the situation and risks involved in travelling to Thailand.
The permanent secretary asked the diplomats for their cooperation to deliver a positive message on television that Thais remain good hosts and welcome foreign tourists.
It is very unlikely that a diplomat would agree to make TV statements that could backfire on their credibility or leave his agency or country liable for compensation from citizens who had a grievance.
Mr Suwat also insisted that local authorities would continue to crack down on local operators conducting unfair practices against foreigners.
“Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has instructed Deputy Prime Minister, Chalerm Yubamrung, to devise measures to tackle the issue in a swift manner,” he said.
“The ministry is urging local tourism operators to refrain from scam practices as Thailand’s reputation as an attractive tourist destination is in jeopardy,” Mr Suwat said.
The tourist service centres, which are under the ministry, will create a campaign to urge locals to look after foreign tourists that will be aired on TV.
Currently, there are two tourist service centres at Suvarnabhumi Airport and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. The ministry plans to open more at other airports, under the prime minister’s policy to have a centre in every province.
Three state agencies – the Ministry of Interior, the Royal Thai Police and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports – will help set up the centres and work together to receive complaints around the clock from tourists.
Prime Minister Yingluck has also ordered police stations in every area to concentrate on tourism operations to reduce crime.
Earlier, European and Australian diplomats held meetings with Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa to ask the Thai government to step up safety measures on the resort island of Phuket.
The most common scams involve local operators demanding extensive cash payments from tourists for allegedly damaging jet skis or tricking visitors to pay through the nose for poor quality gemstones.