SAN FRANCISCO - Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said there was no plan to invite Chinese police officers to patrol local tourist destinations, seeking to clear the air after comments by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) about such a programme created a furore.
The country only wants to co-operate with Chinese police on information exchange about criminal networks that may be active in Thailand, which would boost the confidence of Chinese tourists, Mr Srettha told reporters during a trip to San Francisco on Monday.
The co-operation would not involve stationing Chinese police personnel in Thailand, he said.
National police chief Pol Gen Torsak Sukvimol also insisted any such cooperation would not involve police patrols.
Mr Srettha’s comment came after TAT governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool told reporters on Sunday that the country was in talks with China about a joint patrol programme, which sparked an outcry among local residents who expressed concern about sovereignty.
The controversy arose due to a miscommunication, said Mr Srettha, who is in San Francisco to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum.
Tourism Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol underscored the prime minister’s point.
“There are many alternative ways to build confidence for tourists in Thailand … but we will not have joint patrols,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
“The Thai police force is already adequate and are working hard to restore confidence.”
Authorities have been in damage-control mode in recent weeks, most notably after a shooting spree at a luxury mall in Bangkok left three people dead, one of them a Chinese visitor.
Thailand has been trying to revive the tourism industry, a key driver of economic growth. Chinese tourists used to make up the largest number of foreign arrivals before the pandemic but they have been increasingly vocal in their concerns about safety and security in Thailand.
In September, the new government waived visa requirements for Chinese travellers for a five-month period, an exemption that was extended to Indians and Taiwanese travellers this month through May next year.
Chinese arrivals have totalled 2.8 million so far this year, trailing the government’s full-year target of 4 million to 4.4 million, official data show.