Phuket Opinion: Stiffer penalties needed for those going for gold

Chaiyut Prayoonyong, 65, from Nakhon Sri Thammarat, is the president of the Phuket Gold Shop Association. The owner of three gold shops on the island, Mr Chaiyut has over 40 years’ experience as a gold trader.

Here, he talks about the steps gold shop owners should take to protect their shops against robberies, and suggests that the government create stricter punishments for thieves.

PHUKET: Right now, I do everything I can think of to protect my shop from thieves. I rely on the police, but only in the aftermath of a robbery – they can’t prevent a theft from happening.

There’s just one thing I’d like to see that I think would help prevent robberies: the government should stiffen penalties for theft.

The current penalty – six years in jail – is not a strong enough deterrent. Imagine this: A thief steals a million baht and spends it. Then he’s caught and goes to court. The sentence is six years, but if he confesses, he can get it reduced by up to three years.

So here’s someone who in a few minutes can get the same amount of money it takes other people six years or more to earn, and the price he has to pay is just three years in jail. And we, the gold shop owners, are out the money – is that fair?

You might think we can cover our losses with insurance, but actually it’s not worth it. We have to pay 30,000 baht to insure 2mn baht in property. I have more than 100mn baht of gold in my stores, so I’d have to pay 1.5mn baht for insurance each year. If you run a shop [with this volume of stock] for 40 years, as I have, that’s going to total more than 60 million baht.

I think we’re better off protecting ourselves.

Everyone thinks about CCTV, but there are a lot of other factors we consider to make our shops safe. The first thing is choosing a safe location. The best locations are in busy areas, in city settings or areas where there are a lot of pedestrians.

Then we need to be careful about who comes in and how they come in. We use a remote control to operate the door; that lets us screen customers before they enter. I’ve told my staff again and again to be very careful about admitting people who are wearing jackets, sunglasses, hats or face masks.

Having bars between customers and staff also adds to security.

As for hiring a security guard, that’s a double-edged sword. A good security guard can be a great help, but a bad one can be a real problem. The pool of really capable security guards in Phuket is pretty small. It seems to be a profession that attracts people who don’t know what else to do, or who aren’t qualified for other jobs.

CCTV and alarms are of course very important. We set up CCTV cameras to cover the entire shop, and also the parking area in front of the shop. With these we can provide police important evidence to investigate and prosecute thieves. Alarms should be connected to the police so they can respond immediately if there’s a robbery.

It would be great if police patrolled around gold shops often, but I understand they just don’t have the manpower for this. The number of officers isn’t even enough for our real population. Add to that the fact that we’re a world-famous tourist destination, which brings problems of its own that the police have to deal with. And there are about 120 gold shops in Phuket; we can’t expect police to prevent robberies.

The only aspect of the safety equation that can be improved is stiffening penalties. For example, if the law said that thieves would have their hands cut off, or something worse, that would make people more afraid to steal.

— Saran Mitrarat


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