Spiderman’s uncle once said, “With great tourism, comes great scamability.” We might be paraphrasing a bit, but as Thailand is welcoming international tourists once again pouring into the country, the tourist police are warning that perhaps not-so-welcomed scammers are also returning to prey on fresh foreign victims.
The commissioner of the Tourist Police Bureau says that they are increasing police presence by adding extra bicycle, motorcycle, and car patrols to keep an eye on major tourist spots and popular provinces for foreigners. They are working in cooperation with local police officers and immigration to alert travellers of potential scams according to the Bangkok Post.
The Tourist Police Bureau has posted warning signs for international travellers as they arrived at the airports and other popular tourist hotspots around the country. They also advise any travellers who run into problems the call the Emergency Response Centre by dialling 1155. Operators are available who speak English, Russian, Indian, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, and Japanese.
Authorities also remind incoming international tourists of a handy safety mobile app launched last year to get immediate help 24 hours a day. The oddly named “Tourist Police I Lert U” app is getting an upgrade along with a much-needed renaming to be called simply “Thailand Tourist Police.” A press release earlier this year explains how the app can connect a tourist in trouble to the help they need.
“Downloadable for free at Google Play for Android phones and App Store for iOS phones, the I Lert U application is available in English and Thai. The app is linked to the Tourist Police 1155 Emergency Response Centre, where there are also interpreters and translators ready to provide tourist assistance in other languages. Tourists requiring help at any time 24 hours around the clock can use the application to contact the Tourist Police, who will dispatch officers to the scene immediately. Tourists can also take a photo of an incident and upload via the app to require assistance.”
Stepping up their technology, a data centre is opening at Suvarnabhumi Airport to link data from the tourist police with that from the police force. Police on patrol will receive tech upgrades as well, with license plate recognition cameras mounted on patrol cars and officers wearing body cams. They’re also working on a system to share security footage across 33 tourist police stations.
The tourist police stress though that, in general, international travellers are safe in Thailand. The majority of crimes against foreigners only involve duping them to separate them from their tourist cash. In Bangkok, tuk-tuk and taxi drivers will hang out at tourist attractions and tell visitors that they are closed in order to take them shopping at overpriced souvenir shops that give them a commission instead. Others are conned by jewellery shops selling fake gems or tailors selling knock-off suits with low-quality materials.
In Phuket and Koh Samui, police warn that drug addicts or criminals may commit more direct thefts or violent crimes. And, of course, in Pattaya, the crime that has become so commonly reported that it’s become an internet commenting trope: ladyboys are stealing gold necklaces, especially – but not always – from Indian tourists.