Crime in Thailand
Official corruption is rampant in Thailand. It ranges from bribery to outright police collusion. The interplay of drugs, prostitution, political paralysis, corruption and collusion, a culture of impunity, international tourism and trade, traditional Buddhist tolerance and tendency to ignore problems has led to an increasingly multifaceted and complex crime epidemic in the country. Juvenile delinquency has also been increasing in recent years.
In November 2015, the New York Times reported that in the fiscal year ending September 2015, the national police have seen a surge in thefts, burglaries, and robberies, more than 75,557 thefts and other property crimes in the fiscal year, 10.5 percent higher than the previous year. Violent crime was up 8.6 percent during the same period. These figures have been contested by the police and by Amorn Wanichwiwatana, a criminologist at Chulalongkorn University, who said he was not aware of any significant uptick in crime since the military came to power. "I don’t think that’s the case. It's not possible," he said of the 60 percent increase reported by the Times. Crime statistics from the Royal Thai Police (RTP) show a statistically negligible increase of 1.9 percent over the same period, with 920 additional crimes reported after an overall decline since 2009.
Augmenting the crime prevention efforts of the RTP, there are an estimated 3,000-4,000 security companies in Thailand, deploying between 400,000-500,000 security guards nationwide.
- 1 By location
- 2 Crime by type
- 3 Crime dynamics
- 4 Deaths of foreigners
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Much of Thailand's crime is in urban areas where tourists congregate as they are easy targets, as well as where rampant prostitution and human trafficking feeds their vices. The prime areas of drug abuse are Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya, but not limited to these areas. The prime transit corridor for drugs entering northern Thailand is from the Golden Triangle, as well as from ethnically divided rebel-controlled areas within the fragmented state of Myanmar, especially Shan State. Thailand's international ports, like Laem Chabang near Pattaya, and Suvarnabhumi International Airport, have seen a number of African and former Commonwealth of Independent States gangs, as well as other transnational gangs and drug mules involved in the trade.
Crime by type
Drugs and druggings
Thailand has a growing problem of drugs and the violence associated with it. The drugs involved range from the traditional, kratom, to ya ba, opium from Myanmar, and local herbal medicines.
A previous attempt to control the drug trade by declaring the 2003 War on Drugs, was met with allegations of Thaksin-allied, politically-inspired targeted killings, quotas of dead drug traffickers, and the targeting of innocent victims.
Methampetamines are so widely abused that animals, such as gibbons, slow lorises, and elephants are force-fed stimulants to make them work longer hours, sedated to allow petting and entertain tourists.
In May 2012, it was discovered that nearly 50 million legal pseudoephedrine tablets had been stolen from Thai hospitals. Two billion more tablets were smuggled in from Taiwan and South Korea, with forged documents showing two Thai companies importing some eight billion more. They had reported the drugs to be imports of electronics and automobile parts. Thailand responded by close monitoring of the sale and distribution of pseudoephedrine.
Druggings of tourists and locals alike by sex workers and thieves are an infrequent, but not uncommon, occurrence in major tourist centers like Pattaya or Phuket.
A United Nations report on the situation in Thailand states, "Many of those now incarcerated in Thailand's prisons are likely to be low-level traders and drug users, as they are more easy targets for police, rather than large scale traffickers and organised criminals".
Animal abuse in Thailand is widespread, including elephants tortured for tourism, killing elephants for their tusks, smuggling them from Myanmar, exploiting elephants in cities, and trading in animal parts.
In 2013, some 87 women came forward daily to report sexual abuse or to seek counseling as a result of sexual abuse in Thailand, with most offenders known to the victim. Police refused to accept many complaints, giving excuses such as "political unrest". The youngest victim was aged one year and nine months and eldest was 85. The youngest offender was a 10-year-old boy who took part in a gang-rape and the eldest was an 85-year-old man who molested a young girl.
The number of rape cases in Thailand in 2015 has been reported as 3,240, with 2,109 reported in 2016. The Royal Thai Police reported 2,535 cases in 2017. According to the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation (WMP), 53% of rape victims are raped by family members or friends. Only 38% percent of rape victims are raped by strangers.
On 27 May 2019, Thai sexual assault laws were toughened. Among other changes, sexual attacks on children younger than 13 will carry a sentence of life in prison, while penalties will double for rapists who record and share media of their crime. The new law also adds penalties for sexual crimes against men and necrophilia.
Serious passport and identification forgery caught the attention of US authorities after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Some 259 stolen visa labels had disappeared from a Thai consulate in Malaysia in August 2013. They were used to cross the Thai border illegally. Thirty-five Iranians, one Cameroonian, 20 Nigerians, four Pakistanis, four Indians, and others from Asia made the crossing.
Human trafficking and prostitution
In 2013, the US State Department stated that Thailand faced the lowest rank (e.g. failing) in its Trafficking In Persons Report. The 2013 report stated that Thai police and immigration officials "extorted money or sex" from detainees or "sold Burmese migrants unable to pay labor brokers or sex traffickers,". According to officials from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Thailand was the only government to vote against the United Nations Forced Labour Convention at the ILO's annual ministerial conference in June 2014.
In response, Walmart and Costco retail chains in USA have dumped Charoen Pokphand as a supplier of seafood products due to suppliers that "own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves."  The Thai government on 15 June 2014 caved to international pressure and explained its intention to rescind its previous ILO vote.
Violence against women and children has been rising in Thailand. In 2006, 13,550 cases of domestic violence against women and children were reported by Thailand's Ministry of Public Health. Between 2007 and 2015 the total number of violence victims seeking assistance at the One-Stop Crisis Centre of the Public Health Ministry totalled 207,891. Of those, 105,622 involved children those involving women amounted to 102,269. In 2016, the number of distressed women and children seeking assistance from the centre was 20,018, according to the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).
Foreign gangs and fugitives
Thailand has been described as a "haven" for criminals on the run from the law in their homelands. Further, foreign criminal gangs have adopted Thailand as a base of operations. A 2014 study by the Thailand Institute of Justice identified 22 separate gangs of foreigners involved in identity fraud, petty theft, and burglary. Thailand's economic reliance on tourism means that it is all too easy[clarification needed] for foreign criminals to enter the country. Bribery is frequently used to cement friendly relations with local officials, particularly the police. Their palms greased, police and immigration officials ignore wrongdoing. "Thailand has traditionally been one of the top source countries for extradition of criminals to the U.S.," said a March 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Bangkok obtained by WikiLeaks. "There are a number of minor reasons and one very major one why the jet-setting underground would find Thailand irresistible," according to Thailand-based British author Mr. John Burdett. "The minor ones would include guns, girls, gambling, ganja and gorgeous beaches, especially for those recently released from confinement." But, he said, what makes Thailand especially attractive, "is the ...compliant and bribable police force."
About one in ten people in Thailand legally own a gun. There are more than six million registered guns in a country with a population of 66.7 million. Small Arms Survey estimates that the total number of guns, both licit and illicit, held by Thai civilians in 2017 is 10,300,000, equating to 15.1 firearms per 100 inhabitants. Comparable figures for the other ASEAN nations are: Cambodia, 4.5 per 100 inhabitants; Philippines, 3.6; Laos, 3.0; Myanmar, 1.6; Vietnam, 1.6; Brunei, 1.4; Malaysia, 0.7; Singapore, 0.3; and Indonesia, zero.
In 2016 Thailand's rate of violent gun-related deaths stood at 4.45 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, that of the Philippines was 7.42; the US, 3.85; Cambodia, 0.96; Myanmar, 0.56; Malaysia, 0.46; Indonesia, 0.10; and Singapore, 0.03.
Obtaining a permit to own a weapon legally in Thailand involves extensive vetting, including an interview by an Interior Ministry investigator, but a thriving black market exists to circumvent the law.
School violence and delinquency
Technical colleges for years have seen rival gang shootings at major intersections in Bangkok and elsewhere, and tends to be an urban phenomenon. In one famous case, one such shootout began in response to a "Gangnam Style" dance faceoff. One technical school student is quoted as saying, "Guns are like school supplies. On our campus, we might use a gun to protect ourselves from violent, unruly seniors. Outside, we have rival schools..."
Juvenile delinquency from 2003 to 2007 exploded, increasing some 70 percent, with both genders reporting large increases, despite the country moving up world economic rankings.
Prison infrastructure and corruption
Thailand has woefully inadequate prison infrastructure, as well as a lack of political will to deal with the exploding crime problem. In Rayong Central Prison, which was designed to house 3,000 inmates but holds 6,000, improvised rocket canisters were used to relay goods from the outside world over the top of walls into the prison. Mail sent to prisoners contained items such as mobile phones used to coordinate and organize crime outside of the prison. This situation is not unique to Rayong Prison, and is commonplace throughout Thailand.
Corrupt prison officials add to the issues of dealing with escalating crime. In one case, a prison nurse was caught dealing drugs. In a sting operation some 28 prison wardens were found to be smuggling drugs. Authorities are so corrupt or incompetent that females were found in one male cell feeding five babies. Thai authorities have responded by installing mobile phone jamming equipment, but these jammers has been proven to offer a false sense of security, as a wall crack was used to store phones where the jammers could not penetrate. Other initiatives include x-ray scanners, and installing CCTV equipment. A new super-max prison is in the planning stages.
Crime has infiltrated all components of Thai society, including Buddhist institutions. The monastic life offers a veil of legitimacy to criminal organizations. There have been a number of monks in a string of cases in recent years caught with methamphetamines, selling drugs, prostitutes, pornography, and guns, including senior monks.
One case involved two monks attempting to ditch speed pills at a police checkpoint. Another case involved a senior monk who claimed he needed money to "refurbish his temple", yet used the money for drugs and sex. Murder by clergy has been reported increasingly. There was even a case of Thai monks killing each other in the United States. In addition, sexual assaults committed by Thai monks are not uncommon. There is widespread sexual assault of male novices in temples, and of mae chi (Buddhist nuns) and lay women.
Deaths of foreigners
A number of high-profile Westerners have died in Bangkok hotels including Hollywood actor David Carradine, The director of Tata Motors, Karl Slym, (English), and American businesswoman Wendy Albano. Although there have been crimes, Thai authorities have also had success in apprehending suspects such as in the case of two murdered backpackers and with the Albano murder.
David Miller and Hannah Witheridge, a backpacking couple from England, were murdered on the island of Ko Tao in 2014. In December 2015 the suspected killers were found guilty. They face execution by lethal injection.
In 2013 an American expat was chopped to death by a Bangkok cabbie with a sword. Murders are frequent enough that one writer produced a book called How Not To Get Murdered In Thailand The author mentions the case of the murdered American Troy Pilkington and noted the contrasting dangers of both taxi cabs and public transportation. One of the issues with cabbies is their alleged drug use and abuse at the hands of Chinese organized crime network which often charge them high fee to operate in the city. The cabbies are typically poor farmers trying to earn money for their rural families. Whatever the reasons for their demise, indeed many of the deaths are confusing or have unclear causes, Thailand has remained popular for adventures. One young English woman, Christina Annesley, was found dead on Thai's Ko Tao. Musicians at a Thailand bar stabbed an American businessman to death in front of his son, there to celebrate his birthday with his family. Thai police arrested three musicians for the crime.
The Thai government has worked with other countries to manage crime and, for example, has a prisoner exchange agreement with Australia. In the case of Wendy Albano, India, Thailand, and the United States all worked together to find the primary suspect hiding in India. In that case that the help then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a U.S. senator was involved. This was in part due to difficulty in apprehending a suspect, that had fled to a different country (and thus out of the jurisdiction of a single country).
The case of Wendy Albano and foreigners on foreigners crime
Wendy Albano was an American businesswoman murdered in 2012 in a hotel room in Thailand. Authorities in the U.S. got in touch with the U.S. State department eventually leading to the arrest of a suspect hiding in India years later. The chief suspect was an Indian business associate who fled to India after her death. One of the key pieces of evidence that made him a suspect was their known business relationship and video surveillance from the hotel. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked then secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help with the case. Senator Nelson took steps to help India and Thailand work together to solve the crime. The case made headlines in the United States and India, especially due to the involvement of a U.S. Senator and request for help from then Secretary of State Clinton.
This is the case where foreigners commit crimes against other foreigners in Thailand, in Albano's case the chief suspect was an Indian man who fled Thailand but was eventually captured in India with the help of the Indian law enforcement.
- "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016; Thailand". US Department of State. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
- "Business Anti-Corruption Portal: Thailand". Business Anti-Corruption Portal. GAN Integrity Solutions. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
- "Overwhelming odds get better of efforts to stamp out prison drug trade". Bangkok Post. Thai Prison Life. 2012-09-09. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- "Death penalty abolished for young offenders | Thai Prison Life – ชีวิตในเรือนจำ". Thaiprisonlife.com. 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- Chamratrithirong, A; Miller, BA; Byrnes, HF; Rhucharoenpornpanich, O; Cupp, PK; Rosati, MJ; Fongkaew, W; Atwood, KA; Todd, M (2014-01-24). "Intergenerational transmission of religious beliefs and practices and the reduction of adolescent delinquency in urban Thailand". J Adolesc. 36: 79–89. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2012.09.011. PMC 3543117. PMID 23218782.
- Takaaki Nishiyama (12 October 2013). "For Thailand, learning the Japanese way of reforming delinquents pays dividends". Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- Fuller, Thomas (2015-11-29). "Thai Economy and Spirits Are Sagging". New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Charuvastra, Teeranai; Ruiz, Todd (2015-12-09). "Data Contradicts New York Times on Crime Increase Under Junta". Khaosod English. Archived from the original on 2016-02-04. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
- Sukyingcharoenwong, Mayuree (5 March 2017). "Security guards, firms fret over cost from new law" (Print edition only). Sunday Nation. p. 2. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
- Ngamkham, Wassayos (2011-02-14). "Love, marriage and drug mules: Thai women are being tricked into drug trafficking". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2015-01-24.
- Winn, Patrick (2012-10-18). "Thailand: monks on meth". globalpost. Retrieved 7 Mar 2015.
- "Phuket wildlife officers warn of Bangla slow loris raids to come". Phuket Gazette. 2014-03-20. Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
- "Police arrest Slow Loris owners in South Pattaya". Pattaya One. 2012-03-15. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- "Massive Drug Smuggling in Thailand". Asia Sentinel. 2012-05-04. Archived from the original on August 21, 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- Ehrlich, Richard (2012-05-23). "Illegal Methamphetamines Made From Drugs in Thai Hospitals are Stolen". Scoop World. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
- "Rehabilitation in Thailand". Rhabs Asia. 2016-09-15.
- "Women drug, rob foreigners". Bangkok Post. 2015-02-08. Retrieved 11 November 2016.
- Amidst deep concern for Thailand's drug policies, some space for open debate Transnational Institute, 2012
- Winn, Patrick (8 September 2016). "Thailand is moving closer to decriminalizing meth". Public Radio International (PRI). Retrieved 30 October 2016.
- Campbell, Charlie (2014-07-08). "Elephants Are Tortured and Trafficked to Entertain Tourists in Thailand". Time. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- "Thailand accused of fueling ivory trade". Bangkok Post. 2014-07-02. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- "Thailand asked to combat 'rise' in elephant smuggling - Health & Environment - Worldbulletin News". World Bulletin.
- Fuller, Thomas (2008-01-13). "In Bangkok, it's a tough life for elephants". New York Times. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- Pakkawan, Assawin (2014-07-08). "Tiger parts found on highway". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- "About 80 sex-abuse cases reported daily in Thailand". The Nation. Asia News Network. 2014-03-21. Archived from the original on November 13, 2014. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- Ngamkham, Wassayos (2019-04-01). "Rapists get 'No.1 enemy' tag". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2019-04-01.
- Saengpassa, Chularat (29 May 2019). "Laws on sexual crime toughened". The Nation. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
- "Cheap Japan-Korea Tours Too Good To Be True". Pattaya Daily News. 26 October 2012. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Crook part of £4.5 million scam ordered to pay back £66,000". Derby Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- Farrell, James Austin (Mar 2011). "The Boiler Room Boys". Citylife Chiang Mai (Vol. 20 No. 3). Archived from the original on March 22, 2014. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- "Thailand". Couchsurfing. Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- Lowe, Greg (2011-04-12). "Greg Lowe: How to deal with Bangkok's illegal financial advisors". Travel.cnn.com. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/11/world/asia/11taiwan.html[failed verification]
- "Cards stacked against migrants sucked into scam". Bangkok Post. 2012-11-18. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- http://www.khaosod.co.th/en/view_newsonline.php?newsid=TVRNM056RTRNREV6TlE9PQ== Archived 2014-03-22 at Archive.today[dead link]
- http://www.khaosod.co.th/en/view_newsonline.php?newsid=TVRNM056RTRNREV6TlE9PQ== Archived 2014-03-22 at Archive.today[dead link]
- "Thailand's anti-trafficking effort loses steam". Reuters.
- Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Pact to halt forced labour snubbed by Thailand, Gulf - ILO". trust.org.
- "Africa: UN Agency Adopts Treaty Advancing Global Efforts to Tackle Forced Labour". allAfrica.com.
- "Shrimp slaves: Walmart, Costco act against forced labor". USA TODAY. 10 June 2014.
- "Thailand reverses earlier decision, backs ILO protocol on forced labour". The Nation. 15 June 2014.
- "Fighting domestic violence". IRIN. 2008-09-22. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
- "Spouses, boyfriends blamed for violence against women and children". The Nation. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
- "Why is Thailand the land of fugitives?: The Nation". Straits Times. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
- Sriring, Orathai; Webb, Simon (7 August 2016). "Tourism, infrastructure to support Thailand's economy this year: BOT Governor". Reuters. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
- Fuller, Thomas (20 July 2011). "Fugitives, and Others, in Pursuit of Vice Find Thailand's Liberties to Be a Virtue". New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
- Domínguez, Gabriel (2016-02-19). "A look at Thailand's fervent gun culture". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
- Karp, Aaron. Briefing Paper; Estimating Global Civilian-Held Firearms Numbers (PDF) (June 2018 ed.). Geneva: Small Arms Survey; Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. p. 4. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- "Thailand — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law". gunpolicy.org. University of Sydney. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- "Civilian Firearms Holdings 2017" (PDF). Small Arms Survey (SAS). Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- Aizenman, Nurith (October 6, 2017). "Gun Violence: How The U.S. Compares With Other Countries". National Public Radio (NPR). Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- Carter, Leah (9 June 2019). "Gunning for firearms". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- "2 students held in fatal bus shooting." Bangkok Post. 19 Aug 2012.
- Boehler, Patrick."'Gangnam Style' Dance-Off Ends in Shoot-Out." Time. 24 Sep 2012.
- Sukpanich, Tunya (2012-11-18). "Easy guns bring Wild West mentality". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 7 Mar 2015.
- Narkvichetr, Korakod (n.d.). "JUVENILE CRIME AND TREATMENT OF SERIOUS AND VIOLENT JUVENILE DELINQUENTS IN THAILAND" (PDF). United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-05. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- "Two suspected Pattaya drug dealers arrested and 2,000 Yabba Tablets seized". Pattaya One. 2012-11-03. Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
- Nattaphummint (2012-04-30). "Inmates at Rayong Central Prison have Assistance with Smuggling Contraband and Drugs". Pattaya Daily News. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- "Prison nurse caught selling drugs to inmates". Thai Prison Life. Bangkok Post. 2012-09-24. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- Laohong, King-Oua; Rakrun, Nucharee (2012-04-28). "Prison officials sacked after contraband blitz". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- "Inmates at Rayong Central Prison have Assistance with Smuggling Contraband and Drugs". pattayadailynews.com. Archived from the original on 2018-10-29. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
- "Search of Khao Bin Prison turns up more illegal objects". The Nation. Thai Prison Life. 2012-02-11. Retrieved 6 Mar 2015.
- "Three Monks accused of drug dealing, caught in Sattahip". Pattayaone.net. 2012-09-24. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- "Sex in the monastery". Bangkok Post. 2009-01-30. Archived from the original on 2014-08-19. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- "Monks arrested with meth pills". Bangkok Post. 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- "Two monks caught using drugs at Temple in Sattahip District". Pattayaone.net. 2012-03-21. Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- Thompson, Geoff (2011-11-05). "Scandals follow Thailand's monks". Down the Crooked Path. Archived from the original on 2014-12-24. Retrieved 7 Mar 2015.
- Katherine Sayre (2012-05-12). "Buddhist monk accused of beating fellow monk to death at Grand Bay temple". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- Murdoch, Lindsay. "Jet-setting Buddhist monk at centre of scandal". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
- "Tata boss 'suicide' becomes latest high-profile Bangkok hotel death". asiancorrespondent.com.
- [unreliable source?]
- "Families of British backpackers in Thailand for murder trial". the Guardian.[failed verification]
- "Taxi Driver Hacks to Death a Foreigner in Bangkok". Richard Barrow in Thailand.[unreliable source?]
- "Thailand Murder Suspects Innocent Claims How Not To Get Murdered In Thailand Author Andrew Gardner". newswire.com.
- "How Not To Get Murdered In Thailand". google.com.
- Amelia Hill. "British backpacker found dead on same Thai island British pair were murdered". the Guardian.
- Dallas businessman killed by musician in Thailand bar[dead link]
- Asian jails not very good: Downer, The Age, 22 April 2005
- "Clinton's Help Sought in Thailand Murder". Chiang Rai Times. 14 March 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
- Police in India arrest suspect in 2012 murder of South Tampa designer
- Socialite murdered[unreliable source?]
- "U.S. senator seeks Clinton's help in case of Tampa woman murdered in Bangkok hotel". Bill Nelson Florida. 2012-03-12. Archived from the original on 2016-08-21. Retrieved 8 August 2016.