Crime in Thailand

Crime in Thailand is a persistent, growing, complex, internationalized, and an under-recognized problem. Since the 2014 coup, crime in Thailand is reported by the Royal Thai Police; however, there is no single agency which acts as a watchdog and publishes statistics.

Official corruption is rampant in Thailand. It ranges from bribery to outright police collusion. The interplay of extremely addictive drugs, prostitution, political paralysis, corruption and collusion, a culture of impunity,[1] international tourism and trade, traditional Buddhist tolerance[2] 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.[3][4]

The military coup of May 2014 brought the promise of a crackdown on crime in Thailand. But 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.[5] 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.[6]

By location

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[7] 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.[8] The drugs involved range from the traditional, kratom,[9] to ya ba, opium from Myanmar, and local herbal medicines. Since about 2005, a surge of nightlife-inspired party drugs took hold, with increasingly violent behavior exhibited by users.[9]

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,[10][11] and elephants[12] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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".[14][15]

Animal abuse

Further information: Animal welfare in Thailand

Animal abuse in Thailand is widespread, including elephants tortured for tourism,[16] killing elephants for their tusks,[17] smuggling them from Myanmar,[18] exploiting elephants in cities,[19] and trading in animal parts.[20]


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.[21]


Thailand as a major tourist destination is infamous for scams and touts. Among the most famous and lucrative are the gem scam, Thai tailor scam, and fake travel agents[22][23] and Thai zig zag scam.

The boiler room scam (a fake stock trading scam) is perhaps the most publicized white collar crime in Thailand.[24][25][26][27]

Stateless persons are targeted with fake UN working rights cards.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30]

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.[31] 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,".[31] According to officials from the International Labour Organisation (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.[32][33]

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." [34] The Thai government on 15 June 2014 caved to international pressure and explained its intention to rescind its previous ILO vote.[35]

Domestic violence

Violence against women has been rising in Thailand. Some 27,000 victims were admitted to hospitals from 2007-2012.[36] In 2006, 13,550 cases of domestic violence against women and children were reported by Thailand's Public Health Ministry.[37]

Foreign gangs and fugitives

Thailand has been described as a "haven" for criminals on the run from the law in their homelands.[38] Further, foreign criminal gangs have adopted Thailand as a new 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[39] means that it is all too easy for foreign criminals to enter the country. Bribery is frequently used to used to cement friendly relations with local officials, particularly the police. Their palms greased, police and immigration officials turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.[38] "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.[40] "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."[40]

Crime dynamics

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.[41] In one famous case, one such shootout began in response to Gangnam style faceoff.[42] 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..."[43]

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.[44]

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.[1] Mail sent to prisoners contained items such as mobile phones used to coordinate and organize crime outside of the prison.[45] This situation is not unique to Rayong Prison, and is commonplace throughout Thailand.[46]

Corrupt prison officials add to the issues of dealing with escalating crime.[46] In one case, a prison nurse was caught dealing drugs.[47] In a sting operation some 28 prison wardens were found to be smuggling drugs.[48] Authorities are so corrupt or incompetent that females were found in one male cell feeding five babies.[49] 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.[50] Other initiatives include x-ray scanners,[1] and installing CCTV equipment. A new super-max prison is in the planning stages.[51]

Buddhist monks

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,[52] prostitutes, pornography, and guns, including senior monks.[53]

One case involved two monks attempting to ditch speed pills at a police checkpoint.[54][55] Another case involved a senior monk who claimed he needed money to "refurbish his temple", yet used the money for drugs and sex.[8] Murder by clergy has been reported increasingly.[56] There was even a case of Thai monks killing each other in the United States.[57] In addition, sexual assaults committed by Thai monks are common and just beginning to enter the media. There is widespread sexual assault of male novices in temples, and of maechees (Buddhist nuns) and lay women.[58]

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, (British), and American businesswoman Wendy Albano.[59] 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.[60]

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.[61] They face execution by lethal injection.[62]

In 2013 an American expat was chopped to death by a Bangkok cabbie with a sword.[63] Murders are frequent enough that one writer produced a book called How Not To Get Murdered In Thailand[64] The author mentions the case of the murdered American Troy Pilkington and noted the contrasting dangers of both taxi cabs and public transportation.[65] 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.[65] The cabbies are typically poor farmers trying to earn money for their rural families.[65] Whatever the reasons for their demise, indeed many of the deaths are confusing or have unclear causes, Thailand has remained popular for adventures.[66] One young Brit, Christina Annesley, was found dead on Thai's Ko Tao.[66] Musicians at a Thailand bar stabbed an American businessman to death in front of his son, there to celebrate his birthday with his family.[67] Thai police arrested three musicians for the crime.[67]

The Thai government has worked with other countries to manage crime and, for example, has a prisoner exchange agreement with Australia.[68] In the case of Wendy Albano, India, Thailand, and the United States all worked together to find the primary suspect hiding in India.[69]In that case that the help then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a U.S. senator was involved.[69] 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).[69]

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.[70] 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.[70] The chief suspect was an Indian business associate who fled to India after her death.[71] One of the key pieces of evidence that made him a suspect was their known business relationship and video surveillance from the hotel.[70] U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked then secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help with the case.[72] Senator Nelson took steps to help India and Thailand work together to solve the crime.[72] 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.[69]

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.[59]

See also


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  69. Socialite murdered
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