Snap Judgment

Our popular city has many things going for it: excellent restaurants and hotels, ever-improving sports facilities, family entertainment options, widespread use of English, Russian and Chinese being amongst them. City Hall in the last few years has successfully marketed Pattaya, particularly overseas, which is now the preferred venue for a host of internationally-sponsored sporting competitions and music festivals. Subject to government funding being available, much-needed infrastructure improvements are in the pipeline.

Unfortunately, Pattaya’s major problem is not being addressed properly. Tourist scams remain the single most disastrous factor in both Pattaya and Phuket. A high-level diplomatic meeting was held in Pattaya some weeks ago to protest the crimes in front of the new police chief. There would be little or no point unless the underlying issues are addressed properly.

Much of the action against tourist scams and violence frankly is propaganda. Slogans such as “Your Safety Is Our First Priority” on behalf of the authorities are no doubt meant well, but don’t translate into action if tourists are still being threatened by greedy jet ski operators, ripped off by shady gem shops or assaulted by taxi drivers. Earlier this year there was a great fanfare when police observation towers were introduced along Beach Road to be manned by eagle-eyed cops with binoculars. Apart from the first time, the edifice at the start of Walking Street has been unused for the whole period.

Of course, we can’t expect miracle solutions. Tourists must take some responsibility for their own actions. Thus wearing expensive jewelry whilst walking around at night is silly in any country in the world, let alone in Pattaya which is increasingly attracting high-end visitors and expats. It’s also true that foreign tourists can’t wait months on end for a case to be heard at the criminal court even when the alleged offender is identified. The tourism ministry said two months ago that special fast-action courts would be established to deal with these matters. Since then nothing has been heard. Was this notion just propaganda once again?

The reality is that in some quarters tourists are looked on as prey rather than as guests. Wherever tourists show up in force, with lots of money to spend, confidence tricksters and villains will be on hand to greet them. Tourists are out to enjoy themselves and tend to forget about personal security. Sadly there are video clips on the internet which frankly show visitors being ripped off in jet ski set-ups and other notorious scams. In the vast majority of cases, nothing happens to the perpetrators whilst the complaining tourist might receive a brief police report on the incident – period.

Perhaps it is true that European, American and Australian visitors are relatively wise about these matters. They have had the advantage of countless TV documentaries, embassy warnings and social media messaging to put them on their guard. But the increasing number of Indian and Chinese tourists may not be so savvy. Not yet anyway. The Thai tourist ministry urgently requires an action plan dealing with the realities on the ground. Simply putting out reassuring press releases is no longer enough. After all, Pattaya’s future is at stake.

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