Thailand is considered to be a relatively safe place to live as instances of violent crime are low when compared to some western countries. However, there are common problems and scams which expats should be aware of. As with all countries there are dangerous areas which should be avoided and visitors should be wary in tourist areas as crimes such as bag snatching and pick-pocketing do occur.
Much of the advice given is common sense and many people would take the same precautions no matter where they are.The police in Thailand are considered to be very helpful, particularly when dealing with expats. In addition to the usual police force there is a department which deals specifically with tourists.
The operators on the phone lines are normally multi-lingual and the number to call (1155) is free when you are in Thailand. It is important to treat the police in Thailand with respect as this ensures that they will respect you. If you become angry when speaking to them then you can lose their respect as they consider that staying calm is very important. Losing your temper could result in treating you with some force. The standard telephone number for the police is + 66 5327 6040 and the emergency services number is 191. The police in Thailand are armed.
It is considered that the areas close to the country’s borders with Cambodia and Burma are not as safe as other areas of the country and those visiting those places should take extra care. In contrast there are parts of Bangkok where it is safe for people to walk around on their own at all times of day and night. Tourist areas such as beaches, hotels, spas, temples and museums are all relatively safe.
There have been several instances of political unrest in recent years which may give some expats cause for concern. These incidents have included rioting, bombings and grenade attacks. It is advised to remain vigilant if you are in an area where there has been unrest. In addition to this there is an ongoing risk of a terrorist attack, particularly in areas where there are many western people. The police should be contacted if you have any cause for concern.
Expats should be wary of taxi drivers and other people who are touting for business for entertainment venues and jewellery stores. They can earn commission doing this but there are often scams involved and many people have had fraudulent transactions on their credit cards after being caught up in this. Credit cards should only be used in established businesses and it is advised to keep a close eye on your account transactions. The scam often involves convincing people that they are purchasing gems at a one-off sale and that they can make a large profit by selling them on in another country. The gems are usually worthless and customers have little hope of getting their money back from the store. Customers may even be told that the store is operated by the Thai government or even the Royal Family. This is not the case. Incidents such as this should be reported to the Tourist police.
Those who break laws in Thailand, even those that are considered to be minor, will find that they are prosecuted and penalties are usually harsh. Those who are found with drugs can expect very long jail sentences as well as fines and if the crime is considered to be serious then the death penalty is a possibility. The police are particularly vigilant where drugs are concerned and regular checks are carried out at pubs and clubs. Shoplifting is also considered to be a serious offence and fines are generally very high for this. This is also accompanied by several years behind bars.
When compared with the UK and the US, the crime rate is relatively low but for some crimes such as murder, the rate is comparable with that in the US. However, in March 2011, the Thai Prime Minister announced that the crime rate had actually been cut by 20% as the result of a ‘crime suppression’ policy which had launched in Bangkok. This policy will now be implemented in other areas across the country.