The idea of inviting Chinese police to conduct joint patrols with Thai officers at some popular tourist attractions has raised eyebrows.
To say the least, not many people have agreed with the idea, said to have been hatched by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), with support from the Central Investigation Bureau, the Immigration Bureau and the Tourist Police Bureau, in response to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's desire to boost confidence among Chinese tourists over matters of safety.
Mr Srettha was reported to have expressed concerns shortly before flying to the US for an Apec meeting. Feeling the heat of mounting criticism, he yesterday denied making such a statement and insisted that the government will not invite Chinese policemen to join patrols at Thailand's tourist sites.
The idea of Chinese police operating on Thai soil reflects the government's desperation to lure Chinese tourists back to Thailand. Understandably, Mr Srettha's concerns might have stemmed from reports that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand this year is much lower than expected, with 2.8 million arrivals so far falling short of the 4-4.4 million target despite favourable visa measures.
TAT governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool was reported saying that Chinese police patrols on foreign soil were not unprecedented, citing Italy. Yet, she stopped short of revealing that the Italian joint patrols were later cancelled.
To convince the public of the idea, the governor said the plan was to give Chinese police 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 tourists".
Some critics said the plan insulted the competence of the Royal Thai Police (RTP).
As of yesterday, the government made it clear that joint patrols will not occur, although the idea of Chinese police helping to ensure the safety of Chinese tourists in Thailand has continued to trigger further questions. Why do Chinese tourists have so little confidence in Thai police officers? Does it have something to do with incidents of bribery, abduction and extortion or a number of other bad deeds involving police officers that made headlines over the past year?
These scandals hurt the Thai police's reputation, while some send a chill down the spine.
In February, a Pattaya police officer was accused of extorting bribes from a group of Chinese tourists who he caught using e-cigarettes after reportedly demanding a payment of 60,000 baht to let them go with no further questions asked.
In a separate case just one month later, four immigration officers were alleged to have abducted a Chinese man and his Thai interpreter in an attempt to extort cryptocurrency from them. The victims filed a complaint with Din Daeng police in March, and the four officers were dismissed pending a probe.
That some Thai police officers have a hand in grey businesses operated by Chinese mafiosi is also no secret.
Following all the criticism, national police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol insisted the RTP would be happy to work with their Chinese counterparts, but rumours of joint patrols were a misunderstanding.
Well, now that it has been shelved, the police chief will be under pressure to clean up the RTP's tarnished image and ensure that his officers really are up to the job.