Scams, violence: Phuket needs massive police boost, says chief

Patong Beach, Phuket ... the tourist region's police chief says a huge boost in police numbers is needed to protect tourists from crime.
Patong Beach, Phuket ... the tourist region's police chief says a huge boost in police numbers is needed to protect tourists from crime. Photo: Alamy

Phuket needs to more than quadruple its police force to 5000 in order to protect visitors from crime, the tourist region's police chief says.

But nine months after the stabbing murder of a West Australian travel agent during a bungled bag snatch, Major-General Chote Chawanwiwat says the Thai holiday hot spot is safer than it was.

Major-General Chawanwiwat said last week that 5000 police were needed to protect tourists in Phuket.

"The present Phuket contingent of about 1200 police is based on a registered population of about 320,000 people. When tourists, people from other parts of Thailand and Phuket's illegal and legal labourers are included, 5000 is a realistic number," he said.

On Sunday, he also told the Phuketwan tourist news website that policing had improved dramatically since he was appointed 20 weeks ago.

Sexpats also seem determined to overdose on Viagra, alcohol and god knows what when their hearts aren't up to it.

"We have introduced 21st-century policing, and that has changed the way the island is protected," he said.

Phuketwan reported that Phuket police now use smartphones to send photos to headquarters to show what's happening on their beat.

Major-General Chawanwiwat also said a safety zone system, introduced since travel agent Michelle Smith's murder, had become widespread. The system uses local volunteers to support police who take responsibility for specific areas, similar to Neighbourhood Watch.

The police chief wants to increase the number of security cameras in Phuket from 342 to 2400 before he takes early retirement in October.

About 25,000 Australians travel to Phuket each month and Flight Centre spokesman Colin Bowman said the destination continually rated in the company's top 10 holiday spots visited by Australians.

"In the last couple of years we have seen double-digit growth year on year in terms of number of people going there," he said.

"It has a great variety of accommodation and is only seven or eight-hours' flight, putting it in the same basket as Bali and Fiji."

New crime statistics have revealed that seven expats have been murdered in the resort since 2010 and that last year, foreigners were the victims of two rapes, 13 other violent crimes, 13 attempted robberies and 46 cases of fraud. In the same year, 193 foreigners were arrested for alcohol, drug and drink-driving offences.

Phuketwan editor Alan Morison, said the biggest dangers on the island – apart from jet-ski scammers and people hiring motorcycles without knowing how to ride them – come from other visitors and expats.

"In the past three years only Michelle Smith's tragic knifing death was the result of a random crime by a Thai," he said.

"The knife-wielder and the other bag-snatcher were quickly caught and sentenced to life. The other six murders involving expats as victims have been carried out, according to reports, by other expats. An American also killed a bar girl and a Norwegian allegedly stuffed his former lover's battered body into a wheelie rubbish bin."

Mr Morison said drunken holiday behaviour in Phuket was one of the biggest sources of trouble.

And he warned that single women should follow the same rules as at home and never travel alone.

"Sexpats also seem determined to overdose on Viagra, alcohol and god knows what when their hearts aren't up to it."

Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Department warns on its Smartraveller web site that Australians travelling to Phuket should be aware of the implications of accidents involving a hired motorcycle or jet-ski.

"You should check with your travel insurer whether these activities are covered by your policy. You may be detained and arrested by police following jet-ski and motorcycle accidents until compensation, often in thousands of dollars, can be negotiated."

Top cop's safety tips for Phuket

DON'T ride a motorcycle or hire a car to drive yourself around.

AVOID drinking alcohol to excess, even if it seems a good way to stay cool on a hot Phuket day.

IGNORE offers of drugs and make sure nobody has the opportunity to slip something into your drink. Penalties for drug offences are harsh.

WOMEN should understand that being alone with a man can be misinterpreted in Phuket. Make new friends, but stick with your old friends, too.

Source: Phuketwan

With Telegraph, London

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