SPECIAL REPORT: Police plan to create ’safety zones’ around the country to boost visitors’ confidence
More help for tourists is on the way as police prepare to roll out measures, including the creation of “safety zones”, to mark the advent of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
Pol Gen Wuthi Liptapallop, adviser to the Royal Thai Police, has been assigned to oversee the initiative. He says police will play a critical role in building up foreign tourists’ confidence in Thailand.
Increased confidence will mean more travellers will come to Thailand, he said, which will help the government reach its target of boosting tourist revenue to 2 trillion baht.
After studying crime-prone locations nationwide with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, police created a list of “safety zone” areas under the jurisdictions of 353 police stations in 56 provinces.
Police will scrupulously protect tourists and work on wiping out crimes in these safety zones, said Pol Gen Wuthi.
In Bangkok, safety zones will include Khao San Road, Royal City Avenue, Ratchadaphisek Road and Patpong Road.
In other provinces, tourist hotspots Samui, Pattaya and Hat Yai are expected to be named safety zones.
Pol Gen Wuthi said high-level police, such as deputy commissioners of the Central Investigation Bureau, will be directly involved in the project. At the provincial level, the deputy commanders of each provincial force will be involved.
“If tourists are victims of crime in the declared safety zones, the responsible police officers will be held accountable,” Pol Gen Wuthi said. “If the police officers cannot deal with the situation, no matter where they are, they must leave.”
He said foreign tourists currently face four types of problems in Thailand _ crimes, deception, disasters and degraded tourist attractions.
The number of checkpoints in safety zones will be increased, he said. Residents will be asked to share their own solutions to their crime problems, he added.
All cases affecting tourists will be swiftly reported to the Royal Thai Police, he said, adding the statistics on such cases must be forwarded to police headquarters on the 5th of every month.
“We are now campaigning to promote the issue to raise awareness and understanding of the project among police, tourists, hotel operators and tour firms,” he said.
Eco-tourism operators will be tapped first, as these types of activities were taking hold in the North, Pol Gen Wuthi said.
He added tour operators must carefully examine forest tracks where they are planning to escort tourists. Hotel operators will be urged to strictly check travellers’ passports, he said.
Pol Gen Wuthi said a police notification centre will be established at Khao Pratumnak in Pattaya to assist tourists. Tour operators must notify the centre about selected routes for tours.
Jiravit Chayavoraprapa, an executive of Buddy Group, which operates restaurants and hotels in several tourist hotspots including Khao San Road, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui, applauded the campaign. He said criminal cases, even relatively minor ones, can diminish tourist confidence if they take place frequently. “On Khao San Road, foreign tourists often face problems [including] transvestite gangs who drug tourists and steal their valuables,” he said.