The dark side of tourism to Thailand
White sandy sunny beaches, tranquil temples and libidinous nightlife have long been a magnet for tourists from around the world to visit the land of the smiles, Thailand. The smiles, the customer service- all is excellent, but….
… from Jet Ski scams to robbery, assault and even police extortion, Thailand does not always live up to its reputation as the ?Land of Smiles? for the millions of tourists who flock to the kingdom each year. Now following a flurry of complaints, governments are urging the country to do more to protect the safety of the record numbers of foreigners visiting Thailand.
Drink spiking in bars can be a problem and sometimes people wake up to find they have been robbed.
?There are a lot of people who get drugged here,? said Wal Brown, an Australian volunteer with the Thai police who patrols the thronging streets of Patong on the island of Phuket, where crowds of tourists mingle with touts offering entrance to ?ladyboy cabarets? or photo ops with endangered animals.
?A couple of years ago we had two Italians walk out of the bush. They couldn?t remember anything for three days. All their money and clothes were stolen. They only had their jocks [underwear] on,? he added.
Visitors are warned to beware of strip clubs offering ?pingpong shows? where two beers can cost $100.
?Last year we had one guy hit with a hammer. He wouldn?t pay,? Brown said. ?The tout got very aggressive and attacked him.?
Road accidents and drownings are relatively common causes of injury among tourists in Thailand, where safety standards are generally poor.
Bag snatching and robberies are also a regular occurrence on Phuket with tourists on motorbikes sometimes targeted on dimly lit roads.
?One French girl hid in the bushes for three hours. Another Swedish girl stayed there until daybreak. They were on motorbikes and stopped by people with hatchets and screwdrivers and makeshift weapons,? said Brown, who recommends people read their government?s travel advice before visiting.
Sometimes it ends in tragedy.
A 59-year-old Australian woman was killed in June 2012 in an attempted bag snatch on Phuket. Two Thai men were later sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder.
And just this month in Bangkok, an American man was slashed to death by a taxi driver after an apparent argument over the fare.
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