We all want to travel worldwide, but are we willing to put our lives at risk? Thailand, a dream destination, might not be the most dangerous place globally, yet its history and criminal appeal suggest some form of hazardous activity.
When making important decisions on traveling and looking for a country to settle in, it is essential to consider researching the security precautions.
So, what about the crime rate in Thailand?
Thailand was once rated as the highest criminal country in Southeast Asia. Thai’s are generally law-abiding people; however, there has been extensive drug abuse, thefts, and petty crimes from the early to mid-2000s. In 2021, Thailand became the least dangerous country in the region.
Crime in Thailand has a history that goes way back. Considered a developing economy, the region has made significant changes to control rising crime such as human trafficking, rape, and theft. Thailand is home to both risky and safe areas to travel, allowing tourists and locals the ability to keep themselves out of harm’s way.
Rate of Crime in Thailand Today
Thailand is generally safe. This year, the country was rated the least dangerous country in Southeast Asia for travelers. For the most part, crimes are rare; as long as you exercise standard travel precautions, such as keeping your belongings in check, you have nothing to worry about (2).
Thais are friendly people and known for providing the best hospitality; while you are in good hands, locals will be a big step in providing you with the best hotels, restaurants, and forms of transportation. Additionally, trips are often planned upon a tourist’s desired interests and travel preferences. Keeping that in mind, you can already glimpse what regions of the country are dangerous.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of State, some areas to avoid in Thailand include Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla provinces. These are situated in the country’s southern tip, drained of ethnic and racial conflict (2). It is relatively safe to stay away from violent protests and visit the gorgeous northern areas or historical attractions within the main cities.
One of the most common forms of crime in Thailand today is petty theft; pickpocketing is a concern for travelers worldwide, yet prominently increasing in Thailand. Wearing loose purses or backpacks in crowded areas might not be a good idea. Moreover, another increasing crime is transportation scams. Taking a taxi or tuk-tuk might seem like a cheap alternative; however, vendors often rack up charges and take advantage of customers (2).
One of the critical concerns of tourists is the safety of solo female travelers. You will find Thailand a bit sketchier than Europe; however, the country welcomes all kinds of tourists and even provides all-female hostels (2). While having a reputation for being mysterious or crazy, as suggested in Hangover II, Thailand is not as dangerous as expected. With comprehensive research and caring for one’s health, tourists will feel safe in the country.
History of Crime in Thailand
As of 2014, Thailand’s crime rate was relatively high; gamblers, sexual harassers, and snatch and run thieves commonly operated in Bangkok, Phuket, and other areas (1). Studies showed that the underground economy of drugs, prostitution, and human trafficking was third the size of the economy.
This includes corrupt politicians and thieves, known in Thai as ‘Khamoys.’ A trick known back to date was bus robberies; thieves would enter from the rear door with a knife or gun, stealing watches, gold chains, bags, and then driving away on a motorcycle.
Not only did this include petty crimes, but pirating and counterfeiting became huge problems within the country. Fake diplomas and looted objects were found at antique shops, making Thailand the top 11 nation on the U.S. copyright watch list in 2010 (1). Alongside thefts and copycats were drug-related crimes.
Methamphetamines became a severe problem where crimes were blamed on the use of the drug. In December 1999, a reported story of a man under the influence of amphetamines for three days, ultimately caught trying to slit a 2-year-old girl’s throat. A few years later, in 2004, a construction laborer held a knife at a nine-year-old boy he had kept hostage (1).
Another common crime in Thailand dates back to university student crimes. With problems of antisocial behavior, lawlessness, and alcohol abuse, the early 2000s were haunted by the bodies of 13 teenagers in northeastern Thailand. It is often expected that we see reports of gangs at universities fighting for their right of honor (1). Looking back at the brutal 1976 Thammasat massacre, student violence has always been a significant problem.
One of the most major crimes, however, remains the sex and rape encounters in Thailand. According to the Health Service Department-general, Dr. Supachai Kunaratanpruk, children seeking help across the country increased. It was estimated that only 5% of women were brave enough to report rape reports, while others remained under defiance (1).
This further increased human trafficking; It is estimated that 200,000 men, women, and children were engaged in prostitution, as reported in 2006, by 2013, the U.S. The State Department was worried that Thailand would join North Korea, Iran, and the Central African Republic as the world’s worst offenders and crime-ranked countries (1).
According to Numbeo, Thailand’s crime index is currently at 39.67. With a safety index of 60.33, it is no doubt that these historical crimes have helped the country develop. For the past three years, crime increase has been modern and relatively low. It was a meager chance of around 20-30% that you would be mugged, robbed, or insulted. However, corruption, drugs, and vandalism continued to play a moderate role in keeping the crime rate visible.
It is safer to walk around Thailand in broad daylight; however, it is not that dangerous during the night, especially in populated areas like Bangkok and Pattaya, where malls and businesses close later. With an immense rush of people and security, it is less risky for you to end up in trouble or encounter crime.
Safest Places to Travel and Live
With plenty of research, you can be guaranteed a much safer and less risky trip. Additionally, looking for a place to live is a huge responsibility that should be one under strict guidance (3). Here is a list of must-visit places that guarantee safety and protection
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second-largest city. Compromising foreigners and 40,000 international citizens, all residents call Chiang Mai their home. It has excellent healthcare facilities, community programs, and a low crime rate (3). It was also a part of TripAdvisor’s “25 Best Destinations in the World” in 2014. Moreover, it is home to restaurants, museums, and nightlife.
Located only 100 miles from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a semi-rural city. Extremely affordable and surrounded by forests, mountains, and waterfalls, residents have easy access to the big city. It is the perfect place for people who can easily get overwhelmed from staying in a congested area. Another bonus is that crime rates like pickpocketing are rare (3).
Many could argue that Bangkok would be the least safe place to live in Thailand. However, besides the islands, Thailand’s capital serves as its most popular tourist attraction, ultimately making it safer. Temples, museums, shopping malls, and modern-day infrastructure are all located in the city’s center (3). This guarantees more security and protection. Additionally, Bangkok is more open to identities and sexual orientations as compared to other cities.
How to Protect Yourself from Being a Victim of Crime
It can be relatively easy to get caught off guard; the holiday vibe brings smiles, pretty women, and beautiful scenery (4). Thailand is relatively safe; however, from the historical evidence provided, some incidents and issues are still working to be resolved. Occasionally, things can go wrong, which is why it is essential to take care of yourself. Here are a couple of shared links to crime in Thailand and how you can work to avoid them.
Drive-by-bag snatching is common through motorbikes. They usually zoom in very close, grab your bag from your shoulder, and disappear down the road. Holding onto your bag could have you being dragged down the road and badly injured in the process. A similar instance happened to an Australian woman who was killed in Phuket in 2012 (5).
It is recommended that you keep your bag on the opposite side of traffic, not carry anything of significant value, and control electronics in your pocket. This way, you can avoid confrontation and injury.
Drugs are often run by a group of criminals who place low value on life, ultimately leading to death incidents. Additionally, police in Thailand take drug crime very seriously; you will not be off lightly if you are caught doing drugs (5). Most of the same criminals in the drug business also work for the sex trade.
Prostitution in Thailand:
Despite much suspicion of Thailand as a hub for sex, prostitution is illegal, and there are laws around soliciting prostitutes. Many vulnerable women are trafficked, including young girls (5). The most common way to reduce such rates is to bring down the normalization of commercial sex, encourage healthy relationships, write to local representatives, and participate in anti-trafficking protests.
Against the Royals:
One of the most common crimes committed by tourists or vocal locals seems to be anti-government protests and tweets. It is a criminal offense to defame, insult, and threaten members of the Royal Family, notably the King and Queen. Moreover, you can even get in trouble for stepping on a Thai baht note. As bad as other crimes might seem in the region, this can have you in a Thai prison cell for 15 years or more (5).
In 2021, as many as 103 people are facing jail for insulting the Thai King. Making an unprecedented and taboo-breaking speech calling out the role of the mighty king, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa spent years in jail. Ultimately being charged with defaming the monarchy, he is only a few of hundreds arrested. Youth-led anti-government protests are on the rise; this crime is now punishable by years (6).
No matter how unwanted crime is in every society, it inevitably exists, whether trying to suppress, eliminate, or prevent it. Transnational Organized Crime in Thailand is built up through networks and activities across the border. Organized criminal groups engage with foreign criminals, operating illegal activities that impact other countries as well (7).
Money laundering, prostitution, illegal firearms, drugs, illegal CD Copying, financial fraud, human trafficking, and smuggling are all aspects that have international ties. While still prescribing to most of these aspects, Thailand is working to improve its image, similar to all countries worldwide.
Firstly, assumed to be the center of prostitution and sex, Thailand has improved that image in the latest years, attaining more traditional methods to preserve religion and identity.
*What to do in case of an emergency:
If you have experienced an emergency in Thailand and need assistance, is it best to call the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok: 02-205-4000. They help with legal issues and direct you to the nearest hospital or police station.
1. Hays, Jeffrey. CRIME IN THAILAND: RAPE, MURDER, YOUTH CRIME, HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND CRIMINALS HIGH ON DRUGS. Facts And Details. [Online] May 2014. https://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Thailand/sub5_8f/entry-3280.html/.
2. ViaHero. Is Thailand Safe For Travelers In 2021? ViaHero. [Online] November 2, 2021. https://www.viahero.com/travel-to-thailand/is-thailand-safe/.
3. International Citizens. Safest Places To Live In Thailand. International Citizens. [Online] May 13, 2021. https://www.internationalcitizens.com/living-abroad/safest-places/thailand.php/.
4. The Thailand Life. 10 Top Tips To Avoid Being A Victim Of Crime In Thailand. The Thailand Life. [Online] August 24, 2016. http://www.thethailandlife.com/victim-bangkok-crime/.
5. Jennings, Allyson. How To Avoid Crime In Thailand: 6 Travel Tips. World Nomads. [Online] January 17, 2020. https://www.worldnomads.com/travel-safety/southeast-asia/thailand/thailand-crime/.
6. Reuters. A Year After Taboo On Thai King Broken, 103 Face Jail For Royal Insult. NDTV. [Online] August 4, 2021. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/a-year-after-taboo-on-thai-king-maha-vajiralongkorn-broken-103-face-jail-for-royal-insult-2501946.
7. TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME IN THAILAND. Tanyapongpruch, Sittipong. 119TH INTERNATIONAL TRAINING COURSE PARTICIPANTS’ PAPERS, Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan : UNAFEI, 2002, Vol. RESOURCE MATERIAL SERIES No. 59.