Thailand plagued by status as ‘dangerous’ destination

Thailand attracted 32.6 million visitors in 2016. Source: Shutterstock/1000 Words

TIME and time again, Thailand is called out as a “dangerous” tourist destination, a place where visitors are getting “injured, dying, or jailed”.

A recent World Economic Forum (WEF) report reinforced this position by listing Thailand as one of the world’s 20 most dangerous countries to visit among Colombia, Yemen, El Salvador, Pakistan, Ukraine and Philippines.

According to Stuff, the report highlights the provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla, where more than 6,500 deaths have been recorded in the last 13 years. Martial law is also practised in these regions.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Busadee Santipitaks called the rankings outdated and biased. “The WEF admitted some information was outdated, some information was biased as it was collected using questionnaires,” she said.

“The WEF promised to improve its ranking methodology by using more statistics from reliable international sources and reducing the use of questionnaire surveys.”

She said Thai representatives at the United Nations headquarters had contacted executives at the WEF to verify methods used in the rankings.

The study “measures the extent to which a country exposes tourists and businesses to security risks, mainly related to serious harm to people (violence and terrorism)” while not taking into account petty crime.

Despite the Foreign Ministry refuting the claim, some foreigners feel there’s some truth to the rankings.

For instance, The Courier Mail reported Australian deaths overseas accounted for 621 lives lost — including 212 in Thailand.

Furthermore, Thailand was also where Australians were most likely to end up in hospital with 200 admissions recorded in the past year. This goes hand in hand with the fact deaths and injuries of Aussie travelers in Thailand was up 26 percent from 2016.

SEE ALSO: Thailand could make travel insurance mandatory for all tourists

Interestingly, Thailand is also among the top five countries where Australians are likely to be arrested, alongside the United States, China, United Arab Emirates, and the Philippines.

A separate report on The Nation argued Thailand was still considered unsafe for tourists because of the military junta’s perceived inability to protect its citizens.

The report said: “It has soldiers backing up police and other security agencies throughout the country, and yet no one feels completely safe. Threats to personal and public security are rife.

“The news media are full of stories about crime and violence committed by both locals and foreigners. We see cross-border crime, the smuggling of drugs, weapons and unfortunate people, insurgencies and even sporadic bouts of terrorism.”

Most recently, a bomb exploded at a hospital in Bangkok, injuring 24 people. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

After the incident, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters, “Any action at a hospital violates human rights… I would like the foreigners to know security forces are looking after this.”

SEE ALSO: Thailand reassures tourists following Bangkok hospital attack

Thailand has in recent years been rocked by numerous attacks, including a series of explosions in 2016 at beach locations and a bomb in 2015 at a Bangkok shrine popular with Asian tourists.

The shrine blast killed 20 people, 14 of them foreigners, while the attacks on the beach towns killed four Thais and wounded dozens, including foreigners.

The beach attacks came a day after Thais voted overwhelmingly to accept a military-backed constitution that critics say will entrench military power.

Despite Thailand’s status as a paradise for beaches and street food, tourism forums are still inundated with safety concerns from prospective visitors.

Thailand attracted 32.6 million visitors in 2016, a rise of nearly nine percent from the previous year. Bangkok is currently the most-visited city in the world.

SEE ALSO: Is Thailand buckling beneath the load of tourists?