thailand scams / crime in thailand, go-go soi, pattaya

Thailand scams / crime in Thailand


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Thailand scams / crime in Thailand

In general, Thailand is a safer place to be than most places in the West. Crimes against tourists are relatively rare and minor, but like anywhere in the world crime is present and sometimes tourists in Thailand are victims of crime. A few things to abide by when visiting Thailand is to:

  • NOT trust any stranger that approaches you on the street
  • To remember that nothing in Thailand is ‘FREE’
  • And if an offer sounds ‘too good to be true’ then it most probably is (especially for a greenhorn/first-timer to Thailand).

Jet Ski / Motorbike Scam
The Jet Ski / Motorbike Scam is a simple scam in which you hire (in this example) a motorbike, and on return are accused of damaging it. These unscrupulous scammers have been known to recruit corrupt policeman that will show up and act as a mediator, negotiating on your behalf a ‘so-called’ reasonable amount of compensation for the vendor (the policeman – for his part in the scam, will receive a percentage of the amount scammed). Most hire places in Thailand are legitimate but it is a good idea before hiring anything to let the hire person know that you are aware of the scams that are perpetrated against tourists in Thailand. Also, always ask to look over the bike with the owner before hiring, pointing out and taking a note (preferably a photograph) of any scrapes or dents or imperfections you may see. Most scammers in Thailand are looking for ‘fresh meat’ (naïve first-timers to Thailand) and by verbalising that you are aware of the scams that go on is usually enough to put any would-be scammer off trying to fleece you. This scam is most common with motorbike and Jet Ski hire.

Sexshow Scam
The sexshow scam involves being coerced / teased / tricked into a sexshow club (most notably in the Patpong area of Bangkok, or the east coast resort of Pattaya) by devious, slippery touts. Once inside and seated watching the show with a few drinks and possibly even a few girls, you are eventually presented with an exorbitant bill and threatened with serious violence if you don’t pay. Sexshows in Thailand are best avoided (especially as a first-timer to the country), and far from being sexy – they are actually quite depressing.

Gem scam
Do not buy gems (unless you have prior experience of buying gems and know exactly what you are doing). The usual method employed in this scam is for a sweet-talking tout to approach you in the street with a friendly smile and lots of local knowledge; he will ask you where you are from? And after you tell him – he will tell you that he’s been there, or that that one of his relatives lives or studies there; eventually, however, he’ll get round to business, delivering to you a line of ‘bullshit’, such as: ‘did you know that buying jewellery (or gems) in Thailand is cheap, and that you can make a lot of money by selling it in your home country?’ This is complete ‘balderdash’ of the highest order. Once the bait is accepted you will be taken to a shop/shops and sold jewellery or gems. 9 times out of 10 when the jewellery is valued back home it is found to be worth only a fraction of the amount you paid for it.

Conmen
There are plenty of western conmen living in Thailand who prey on naïve tourists. Many have taken to the busy tourist areas with a myriad of sob stories designed to lighten the weight of your wallet. Don’t be too compassionate when approached by someone with a story similar to: ‘…excuse me – I was wondering if you could help me? I’ve just been robbed (by a ruthless Thai girl, usually) and I need to borrow 100 Baht to make a phone call back home for help.’ Foreigners are also involved in ‘timeshare’ scams on the islands of the south; previously (a few years ago), hordes of foreigners were involved in ‘boiler room’ scams (stock market scams) all over Thailand. Over the years crimes committed by westerners on westerners range from glorified begging – like the example above – to muggings, rape and murder.

Note: there are exceptions to the rule in regards to the above example see here for more… 

Taxi Crime
Bangkok is over-run with taxi’s, and whilst most Bangkok taxi drivers are honest, there are others who are not. Before entering a taxi (taxi metre cab) always insist that the driver turn the metre on. If he says it is broken (or comes out with some other dubious reason for not turning it on), simply close the door and repeat the process until you find a cab driver who is willing to turn his metre on. If you follow this simple rule you will not get ripped off by piss-taking taxi drivers.

Drugs in Thailand
If you use drugs in Thailand you are taking a massive risk with your life. Thailand has one of the worst methamphetamine (Ice and Ya-baa) problems in the world and takes its illicit drugs laws very seriously (people are sentenced to death in Thailand for certain drug offences). If you are caught with drugs in Thailand you are going to jail (unless – and this is a big ‘maybe’ – you have lots of spare cash to plea bargain with police, and even then – if you don’t know how to negotiate properly, you may suffer a double whammy by having bribery charges brought against you after they pocket your money).

Many farangs (foreigners) smoke weed in Thailand, it has become part of the backpacker scene; some use ecstasy, some smoke Ice (Ya-ice) and Yabaa, and some use pharmaceutical drugs (which are also illegal to possess without a prescription). The best advice in regards to using drugs in Thailand is to NOT use them. There are many foreign prisoners (both male and female) banged up in Thai prisons like Klong Prem and Bang Kwang. Most are serving ridiculously long sentences for drug offences that would get you a slap on the wrist back in your home country (or, at the most, a year or two in prison). If you are a risk-taker by nature and disregard this advice, then be warned – Thailand is not a nice place to end up in the slammer, and you might even be unlucky enough to fall foul of Thai drug laws by failing a random ‘piss test’ see here.

Note: the following are a few true prison stories about foreigners who have fallen foul of drug laws in Thailand; they are worth reading, especially if you are a drug user who is thinking of visiting Thailand.

Prayer before Dawn, A : A Nightmare in Thailand
The Damage Done: Twelve Years Of Hell In A Bangkok Prison
Forget You Had a Daughter: Doing Time in the Bangkok Hilton

The following link is an information pack issued by the British Embassy in Bangkok that contains useful information on the Thai judicial system; the information is usefull not only for Brits but for anyone who finds themselves on the wrong side of the law in Thailand.
Information Pack for British Prisoners Arrested and Imprisoned in Thailand

Organized Crime in Thailand
Thailand has a large number of organized crime groups, although there is less information available about their size and structure than that of other Asian crime syndicates like the Chinese Triads or Japanese Yakuza. The Thai-based groups, however, derive enormous profits from activities such as gambling, drug dealing, and prostitution. The closest most tourists in Thailand will get to organised crime is frequenting sex industry establishments or being the victim of one of the aforementioned street scams.

The Thai Mafia
Profits from the illegal economy have contributed to the rise of ‘Jao Pho’ (Godfathers) in Thai society and politics. Not all of the local businessmen who are described as ‘Jao Pho’ are engaged in illegal businesses. But many of them are. They also conduct legal businesses as a front and as additional sources of income. In many cases they use their influence to gain lucrative concessions and contracts from the government. They enhance their social position in society by helping build local infrastructure, donating to temples and welfare services, and entertaining important local and national politicians. Most political parties at one time or another have looked for support from the underworld’s ‘Jao Pho’.

The Chinese Mafia in Thailand
The Ethnic Chinese (mostly Chiu Chow – Teochew, from the Swatow Province of Southern China) are the largest non-Thai minority, totalling six million plus people (approximately 14% of the population). Whilst the vast majority of Thai-Chinese are law-abiding citizens, and have contributed greatly to the advancement of Thailand, there are, however, a number of Chiu Chow (Teochew) groups operating in Thailand which are very actively and successfully involved in organized crime, particularly prostitution, people trafficking and the drug trade. Many Thai-Chinese Godfathers are described as ‘Jao Pho’.

International Crime Syndicates in Thailand
With its laid-back visa regulations and its reputation as a country where illegal businesses can operate lucratively, Thailand has attracted not only Asian criminals but criminals from all over the world. In Bangkok and Pattaya, criminal syndicates from China, Taiwan, India, Russia, Korea, Australia, Europe, Africa, and North and South America have all set up shop. Also, in recent years, the 14K triad, a Hong Kong-based syndicate, has established a strong presence in Thailand. The 14K triad are said to be the largest triad syndicate in the world but even they have limited influence in Thailand, largely due to the active role of the ethnic Chiu Chow (Teochew) Chinese criminal groups.

The Police
Over the last decade, policemen in Thailand have appeared in news reports as being involved in the illicit trafficking and supply of drugs; being share-holders in illegal gambling establishments; being major players in human trafficking; and for being entrepreneurs and employees of the sex industry. There are many good and honest policemen but overall the police in Thailand must be counted as one of the major components that make up organized crime in the country.

The Government
Thailand’s military government has stated that one of the reasons it snatched power in the military coup of 2014 was to crack down on corruption, which in many ways – on the surface, it has done. But military spending in Thailand is secretive and when anyone questions abnormalities in the country’s finances they are arrested. Corruption is ingrained in every level of Thai society and many influential people who operate illegal businesses are purported to be members of the Thai government.

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Copyright © 2016 Raymond Carroll

Thailand scams / crime in Thailand

16 thoughts on “Thailand scams / crime in Thailand”

  1. Wow that’s a lot of scams. The worst part is that the police and government are in on it too, so there’s really no one to go to for help when something goes awry. I like your tips about the taxis and the motorbikes because I was thinking about using both of those when I go to Thailand in a couple of months. Also – something similar to the sex show scam happened to my friend in Shanghai except it wasn’t a sex show, it was karaoke. My friend met a nice couple at his hotel who invited him out to karaoke that night. He said yes, went to karaoke, and then when he was getting ready to leave, the owner brought in a huge bill and the nice couple wouldn’t let him leave until he paid for it. The guy ended up pulling out a gun on my friend, who was locked in the karaoke room, and luckily he got out eventually by paying for the bill, but lost a ton of money. Guess this kind of things happens in a lot of places. Best way is to not go into any locked rooms with strangers I guess.

    1. Cautionary tales, Diana – take heed and you’ll be okay. Thailand is a wonderful country and I am sure you will love it. Too bad about your karaoke friend in China – better to know what scams to be aware of when visiting a new country. Good luck and take care…

      Ps don’t worry about not being able to go to the police if something did go wrong, there are many good policemen willing to help in Thailand too.

  2. This was a good read. Many tourists are so naive and don’t do their homework when travelling to foreign lands. My father and I were taken by a casino scam once in Antigua and boy did I feel stupid afterwards. Definitely a learning experience.

  3. The motor bike hire, gem con, and taxi scams are common world-wide, and good advice for any travels. I was not aware of the drug-use and penalties, scary stuff and another reason to avoid illegal drug activity.

    1. Hi Jen, with all the illegal activities that go on in Thailand – drug use, prostitution, flagrant violation of road rules etc.- it’s easy to get lured into a false sense of security. Thailand, at times, seems so laid back that some people start to think that the laws don’t really matter too much… until they fall foul of them, and then it’s a different story altogether. Practice good common sense in Thailand and all should be ok. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Reading about this, I can’t help but feel sad. Thailand is a beautiful country with plenty to offer. But if these people continue to exploit tourists for their own gain, it will eventually cause some setbacks to the tourism industry.

    1. Hi Abigail, these sort of scams happen in most developing countries, always have, and probably always will. I agree, Thailand is a beautiful country with loads to offer visitors, but it is better to know what crimes and scams are perpetrated against tourists before traveling to any country. Thankfully, most Thai people are good, but – like anywhere in the world, there are those who are not. Thanks for commenting and good luck on your travels!

  5. Wow when you write them out like this, there really are a lot of scams going on in Thailand. The one I saw most often was the Taxi scam. Even if they had the meter on, I had to have google maps open on my phone to make sure they didn’t take me several miles out of the way to jack up the meter price.

    When I was visiting the Filipino mafia was running a scam in several of the countries I visited where they were inviting solo backpackers back to their house for dinner. While there they somehow got wrapped up into a gambling scam and had to pay a ridiculous sum before they were allowed to leave or got drugged and had their things taken. Met several travelers with this story. But if you are smart, you’ll be fine!

  6. Oh great guide! Especially about the part when you say that nothing is free! I love Thailand but it is hard work avoiding the scams

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