Box office shocker: Thai trafficking thriller spooks Chinese tourists from coming to Thailand (video)

A Thai box office movie highlighting the real-life dangers of human trafficking in Thailand and Southeast Asia has been blamed for scaring Chinese tourists away from the kingdom.

The movie, No More Bets, is a gripping thriller grounded in true events. It follows the harrowing journey of a computer programmer who finds himself ensnared in a violent scamming ring in Southeast Asia, having been trafficked through an unspecified country, widely believed to be Thailand. It is worth noting that the tales of individuals being trafficked to operate call centre scams are rooted in reality.

The Thaiger, alongside several other prominent news outlets in Asia, has extensively covered the plight of Asian individuals who are trafficked into call centres in Southeast Asia, primarily in Myanmar and Cambodia, to perform online scams defrauding unsuspecting victims of substantial sums of money.

The majority of those enslaved are deceived into this work through deceptive promises of lucrative employment. There have been no reported incidents of tourists being abducted from the streets while on holiday, and no such scam compounds have been uncovered in Thailand. Nevertheless, the film has evoked fear in a number of viewers, consequently casting a shadow over Thailand’s tourism industry.

Chinese tourist Jia Xueqiong, accompanied by her husband and daughter, spent a week in Thailand, defying her parents’ objections. The 44 year old nurse admitted to AFP that she had faced significant pressure to reconsider her trip to the Land of Smiles.

“They believed it wasn’t safe here and attempted to dissuade us from coming. All my friends advised me, ‘You go ahead and explore first; if it’s alright, we’ll follow suit.'”

No More Bets

The concerns expressed by her family and friends were fuelled by the adrenaline-pumping thriller, No More Bets.

Despite its release in August, “No More Bets” has emerged as China’s third-most popular film this year, amassing a staggering 3.8 billion yuan (18.2 billion baht.) in earnings. It has intensified online discussions regarding the risks associated with visiting Thailand.

Leanna Qian, a 22 year old student from Beijing, acknowledged that while she recognised that some of the stories were “exaggerated,” she still harboured apprehensions about travelling to Thailand.

“I’m concerned that we might be taken to other places, such as Cambodia or Myanmar.”

In 2019, Thailand recorded a historic milestone by welcoming 11 million Chinese tourists, constituting a quarter of all visitors for that year, according to official data. However, since the commencement of 2023, only 2.3 million Chinese tourists have visited Thailand.

In a bid to rekindle the flow, the Thai government recently introduced temporary visa-free travel for Chinese travellers.

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, the president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, told AFP that negative discourse on the internet had played a pivotal role in the decline.

“Occurrences may not actually transpire in Thailand, but Thailand becomes the target.”

The rumours gained such traction that earlier this year, the Thai embassy in Beijing issued a statement reassuring visitors that authorities would “take measures to ensure tourists’ safety.”

Across the border, Chhay Sivlin, the president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, expressed an even graver situation. Her company has not received any Chinese tour groups thus far this year, and the feedback emphasised tourists’ concerns regarding safety.

“If the Chinese government lends its support, we could soon welcome tourists again, as Chinese citizens heed their government’s advice.”

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.