Police target tourist hunters

Police target tourist hunters

Reopening of borders to foreign visitors has con artists back to their old tricks

Police are stepping up measures to protect foreign visitors as scam artists and criminals are back on the prowl now the country has reopened to overseas tourists.

Last Saturday, Thailand recorded 10 million foreign tourist arrivals for the year, with celebrations to welcome overseas visitors taking place at seven airports and two immigration checkpoints.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry organised an "Amazing Thailand 10 Million Celebrations" event to highlight the steady revival of the vital tourism industry after a Covid-induced downturn that lasted more than two years.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was at Suvarnabhumi airport to welcome the 10-millionth visitor of the year, arriving on a flight from Saudi Arabia.

Pol Lt Gen Sukhun Prommayon, commissioner of the Tourist Police Bureau (TPB), told the Bangkok Post that most visitors come from neighbouring countries, with those from Malaysia making up the largest number, followed by India, Laos, Cambodia, and Singapore.

As for arrivals from the West, visitors from the UK, the US, and Germany are also coming in large numbers, he said, adding police are rolling out measures to ensure safety for tourists, he said.

He said that bicycle, motorcycle and car patrols are being stepped up in several provinces that are home to major tourist attractions.

Scam artists are back

With the influx of foreign arrivals, con artists are also back on the streets to prey on overseas visitors in tourist hotspots, he said.

Con artists, including some taxi or tuk-tuk drivers, are often spotted near the entrance to major tourist venues or temples. They tell unsuspecting foreigners that the place is "closed" and take them shopping elsewhere.

"When tourists alert police via the Thailand Tourist Police app, the information will be circulated to all the 33 tourist police stations as well as other local stations." — Pol Lt Gen Sukhun Prommayon, Commissioner of the Tourist Police bereau

Some victims are taken to a tailor's or a jewellery outlet where they will be conned into buying low-quality or worthless items at inflated prices, Pol Lt Gen Sukhun said.

Tourist police are working with immigration and local officers to deal with the problem, with warning signs posted at airports and other tourist locations.

Foreign visitors can dial 1155 to contact the TPB's emergency response centre, which can provide assistance in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Indian, and Arabic languages, he said.

They can also download the "Tourist Police I Lert U" mobile app for free to contact police around the clock when in need of assistance. The app is available in English and Thai and is linked to the 1155 emergency response centre.

Those in need of help can take a photo of an incident and upload it via the app to contact the TPB, which will send officers to the scene straight away.

"We are trying to make the most use of modern technology to support our work. We also put up signs at airports and other locations to encourage foreign visitors to download the app or contact the 1155 centre," Pol Lt Gen Sukhun said.

Safety upgrade

He said the app would be upgraded to handle an expected surge in foreign arrivals, and it will be renamed "Thailand Tourist Police".

A data centre will be opened at TPB headquarters at Suvarnabhumi airport, linking with a system analysing information about suspects in the police force's database, he said.

Tourist police will also wear body cameras to record interactions with others, while licence plate recognition cameras will also be installed in police patrol vehicles, he said.

A system will also be devised to integrate and analyse footage from surveillance cameras from 33 tourist police stations across the country."When tourists alert police via the Thailand Tourist Police app, the information will be circulated to all the 33 tourist police stations as well as other local stations," Pol Lt Gen Sukhun said by way of explanation.

Problems vary

He added that the TPB wants to stress the safety of foreign visitors in major tourist spots such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui district of Surat Thani, as problems vary from place to place.

In Bangkok, many tourists visit the capital for the first time, and they may encounter problems from taxi or tuk-tuk drivers, particularly those who collude with rip-off artists, he said.

"Tourist police are working with the Department of Business Development, the Commerce Ministry, and the Tourism and Sports Ministry to counter these scammers," he said.

As for Phuket and Samui, police are keeping an eye out for local criminals who prey on foreign tourists, Pol Lt Gen Sukhun said, adding that some are drug addicts or former convicts who may reoffend by committing rape or theft.

Tourist police are joining forces with local authorities and police to monitor former convicts as well as ask people in local communities to support police efforts to maintain law and order," Pol Lt Gen Sukhun said.

In Pattaya and Chon Buri, most foreign visitors now come from India, but tourists from Europe are also returning steadily.

There are many complaints about transvestites or ladyboys swindling, robbing and attacking foreign tourists in Pattaya, he said.

These crimes were low during the pandemic, but they are now rising again since the country reopened to tourists, he added.

On Dec 2, police arrested two transvestites for stealing a gold necklace from a Russian tourist called Artem Kurisev in Pattaya, he added.

Before the pandemic, foreign visitors to Chiang Mai mostly came from China and South Korea. Currently, many of them are from Europe, and they enjoy exploring forests, mountains, and hot springs in this northern province, Pol Lt Gen Sukhun said.

Police have to ensure their safety as well as prevent any potential clashes between tourists and local villagers, he said.

The TPB also works with the Department of Tourism to regularly inspect tourism facilities catering to adventure lovers to ensure they meet safety standards, he said. If they fail to do so, their operating licences will be immediately revoked, he added.

Do you like the content of this article?