Cooperation between Thai and Chinese police is necessary to help restore confidence in tourists' safety, says the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), with tour operators hoping the programme will help reduce illegal Chinese businesses.
The government proposal to invite Chinese police to Thailand has stirred public discussion this week as some people raised concerns about allowing them to patrol alongside local police.
National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol insisted any such cooperation would not extend to actual police patrols on the streets.
However, TAT governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool said the joint police patrol scheme was just one proposal among several regarding possible cooperation between Thai and Chinese police to strengthen security.
She said the idea was also touted by tour operators during the visit of TAT officials to the mainland last month, but the idea hasn't been finalised and would be discussed with the Chinese ambassador during the meeting with the TAT this week.
This proposal is based on the study of the previous scheme which Chinese police initiated in other countries such as Croatia and Italy before the pandemic, which helped boost Chinese tourists' confidence after official cooperation was forged and publicised by Chinese media.
Ms Thapanee said its application to Thailand would be based on legitimacy and appropriate context.
If the public is concerned about the joint patrol programme, there are other schemes that the police of the two countries can jointly implement, such as information exchange on illegal businesses, which is also one of the most critical issues.
She said the cooperation is aimed at solving declining confidence among Chinese tourists.
Tour operators in China are in favour of this scheme as Chinese tourists will have more confidence if they know their police are nearby while travelling, particularly with negative news about safety issues on Chinese social media as Chinese arrivals remained weak despite the visa-free scheme implemented in September.
"The cooperation will focus on certain periods in some locations which draw a lot of Chinese visitors. Besides security for tourists, we hope that Chinese police will have the opportunity to see how Thai police implement safety measures and report back to their government, which would also help improve the confidence of Chinese tourits," said Ms Thapanee.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said tour operators are not certain how much this scheme would help restore tourists' confidence.
However, in terms of preventing illegal Chinese businesses, it might help solve the problem to some extent if Chinese authorities can share useful information with Thai police to help them crack down on criminals who might be afraid of their own police.
"Having Chinese police officers patrolling the city might not be a good idea, as Thai police should be responsible for this job on their own, as well as other safety and security issues, while the Chinese police can help by providing necessary support," said Mr Sisdivachr.