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Fears Over Tourist Safety in Phuket

March 14, 2013

phuket, thailandNatalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, March 14, 2013

While announcing new crime figures for the island, police chief Maj-Gen Chote Chawanwiwat called for 5,000 more officers to help protect tourists from what local news sites describe as “mafia-style” crime.

The figures revealed that seven ex-pats have been murdered in the resort since 2010 and that last year, foreigners were the victims of two rapes, 13 violent crimes, 13 attempted robberies and 46 cases of fraud. In the same year, 193 foreigners were also arrested for drinks, drugs and drink driving offences. The biggest cause of death to foreigners in the resort was drowning, however, with eight deaths in 2012.

The statistics were released in response to increased concern about the safety of foreigners following the death of an Australian travel agent, who died from stab wounds after having her bag snatched last year. Her attackers have been caught and jailed for life.

Only this week, a Singaporean tourist was also targeted by two bag-snatchers on a motorcycle who were travelling at speed and crashed into an oncoming car. Two teenage men are currently under police guard at Phuket City Hospital.

The government has called for a tightening of security in order to protect the valuable tourism industry there. New “safety zones” have now been set up around the resort.

Maj-Gen Chote Chawanwiwat said: “The (Thai) government has set a big target for the revenue it hopes to achieve from tourism in Phuket so, in the interests of protecting its investment, providing more police would be a wise decision."

Tom Vater, Telegraph Travel's expert in Bangkok, said that while Thailand remains a safe and attractive destination overall, visitors to Phuket should take great care.

"Phuket has more than its fair share of troubles," he said, "from aggressive taxi drivers, to jet ski operators looking to scam tourists, bag snatchers and young disenfranchised kids out to cause trouble.

"Much of the island is run by mafias and the police are not always sympathetic to foreigners' complaints. Single female travelers are advised to be vigilant while out at night, as sexual assaults on foreigners in Thailand are on the rise."

In January, a 35-year-old British man drowned while snorkeling with friends from a beach in Phuket.

Drownings sometimes occur because tourists ignore red flags that fly on west coast beaches warning against swimming due to a dangerous undertow and ebb tides.

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