THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 3 – THAILAND IN PERSPECTIVE
Thailand in Perspective is the Third Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is nearing completion. But before I publish it as an e-book I decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book. Here is the latest.
Excerpt 9 – Crime & Safety
An alien’s perceptions of crime in Thailand will undoubtedly vary depending on an individual’s knowledge and experience of the Country and to some extent their expectations. There are many visitors and foreign residents who naively imagine Thailand to be a utopian society that is free of any of the problems they have experienced in their homelands. This is, of course, a totally inaccurate perception of the Country. They would, however, not be wrong in thinking that Thai people are generally relaxed and easy going as the culture promotes tolerance and anger is frowned upon. Politeness is ingrained into the psyche from childhood; whether genuine or not you must be polite. I would say most Thai people are honest and confrontation is always avoided unless it is impossible to do so. Maybe this is where they get befuddled.
Petty crime is everywhere in Thailand and housebreaking in the rural areas does appear to be on the increase. As more villagers travel to the towns to work nowadays burglars are presented with more opportunities to burgle unoccupied houses during the day. I have heard stories of break-ins where the owners were at home and one instance of an occupant being killed. This is very sad indeed but I don’t believe it to be a regular occurrence.
[It is worth reading Hub Pages which gives an interesting overview of crime in Thailand.]
Some foreigners have set up projects that benefit Thailand’s poor and underprivileged. However, it appears, there are now an increasing number of foreigners – many with criminal backgrounds in their own countries – taking advantage of Thailand’s relatively generous immigration policy. For 30 day visas the background checks are not as tough as they would be when applying for a visa at an embassy or a consulate. Apparently there is a healthy trade (or unhealthy, depending on which way you look at it) in false documents inside the Country. Good-quality fake passports, and connections with the right people can be arranged for a price which is valuable to criminals. This allows them to operate and prosper in the knowledge that they can stay undetected, sometimes for a long time anywhere in Thailand and are effectively protected from the law. Fortunately, the eventual arrests of some underworld characters have led to extradition in most cases. If more stringent checks were imposed, particularly at the country’s airports, arrivals that are wanted elsewhere for criminal activities would be refused entry. Let’s hope that in order to protect the population, the immigration authorities can implement more measures to help track down nefarious immigrants.
I think it would depend very much on what you have been used to elsewhere and the places you frequent as to how you would view your safety in Thailand. Since moving to Thailand I can honestly say that I have never felt physically threatened or in any real danger. So, for me, Thailand is a very safe place. However, it is important for me to remember that I lived for nearly 20 years in South Africa and became used to living vigilantly. In 1996 I was subjected to an armed robbery in my home. The perpetrators were three black Africans armed with knives and guns. After some serious verbal abuse and physical threats I was bound and gagged but my life was spared.
To put it into perspective consider whether it would be possible for a white person to live safely anywhere in South Africa; for example in a black or coloured[i] community. The answer is simply NO. There may be the very odd exceptions and I mean odd. Normally no white person would be odd enough to want to live in the townships of Alexandra, Khayaletsha or even worse Mannenburg in the Western Cape Flats area. It may sound dramatic but they would be lucky to survive one night. South Africa is a very violent Country; one quarter of the population of sixty five million is unemployed and half of those are probably unemployable. Illiteracy is double the rate it is in Thailand for a similar population; 15% as against 7%. This makes for grim reading in a Country where too many people live in abject poverty and have nothing to lose thereby making crime the only survival option. Apartheid has long gone but people still live separate lives in separate areas, making whites in white areas, inside and outside their homes, vulnerable targets for desperate Black and Coloured South Africans.
I think it highly unlikely that a foreigner would fall victim to the sort of violent crimes that make life in a big cities like Johannesburg almost unbearable. Car hi-jacking’s, drive by shootings, muggings, street gangs, etc.
Now ask the question again but substitute South Africa with Thailand. Would it be possible for a foreigner to live anywhere, safely, in Thailand? The answer is simply, YES. Foreign immigrants live peacefully all over Thailand, some of them in the poorest communities, without any fear. That tolerance shown to legal immigrants by Thailand is one of the reasons why the Country is such a popular ex-pat destination.
Thailand in Perspective (excerpt 10) – To be posted next week.