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Thai Police Harass Tourists

Much of Thailand's income is derived from tourism. A tourist can spend more money in A DAY than many Thais earn IN A YEAR. The Amazing part of the story is Thailand is now mismanaging the tourists it so badly seeks. Police are now harassing tourists.


National Radio text is published in five languages Thai, French, Russian and Khmer (Cambodian language), and English. Any of our foreign language material and our Roman Wanderaugh columns is legally available ONLY on our National Radio site. Our sports, entertainment and feature programming has been broadcast on over 1000 radio stations.

Friday February 16, 2001


When you're a traveler you're a consumer. A tourist travels to a country and purchase goods and services. Thailand which bills itself Amazing Thailand has turned out to be just that. Thailand has mismanaged its money, and in many cases yours, since it was granted loans from world lending institutions. That mismanagement of funds was the impetus of the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

Prior to the financial collapse Thailand over valued their currency which was then around 25 baht to the US dollar. Soon after the crash the baht fell to the mid 50's. It is now hovering around 43-44 to the US dollar. Thailand is now overvaluing its worth as a tourist destination.

Much of the country's income is derived from tourism. A tourist can spend more money in A DAY than many Thais earn IN A YEAR. The Amazing part of the story is Thailand is now mismanaging the tourists it so badly seeks. Police are now harassing tourists at the Ekamai [Eastern] bus station in Bangkok.

Recently a very conservative elderly traveler was asked where he was going. When he inquired why, he was then asked to show his passport. "I'm police show me your passport," the officer sternly ordered as he pointed to the lettering P O L I C E on his shirt.

Having been a traveler to the Land of Smiles since 1988 the tourist had never before been asked to show his passport with four exceptions… immigration, hotel registration, renting a vehicle and cashing travelers checks. This police officers request had the tourist confused. Why after 10 years of traveling to Thailand... was this harassment?

Take in consideration in 1988 Thailand's newspapers were censored. Blotches of black ink covered areas of the front page that normally would have shown news coverage. At that time Thailand never had a democratic election. It was a year before the May 1992 outbreak when Thai police attacked and killed many Thai student protesters.

With that being the environment at the time the tourist had never been asked to show his passport. He had visited Thailand shortly before and shortly after the riots. Now, why all of a sudden ten years after would there be such an inquiry?

The tourist was then asked to "Step over here," towards three other officers positioned in the dimly lit bus station parking lot. It was around 10:45 in the evening. The tourist noticed how zealous the officers were to impose their power on him. One was slapping his club in the palm of his hand while the two others gave glaring stares. The traveler was then asked to dump his belongings on a bench.

With all of his possessions dumped out of one of the two bags that the tourist was carrying he was then asked what he did. When he revealed that he was a reporter it put a different spin on the situation.

After showing his passport, business card and other documents the atmosphere lighten up and the tourist was permitted to leave to catch his soon to be departing bus. As he walked away from the officers, the almost 60 year-old journalist thought about having had only one other such experience in his life. That was during the 1960's when American police were beating and killing protesting students at Kent State University. It was during that time that American police were shooting tear-gas, clubbing, beating and marching on student protesters at the University of California, Berkley.

To see if this Bangkok, Thailand situation was an isolated incident the tourist shared his nightmare of an experience with others. A traveler from England had a similar encounter at the Ekamai bus station when he was on his way to Pattaya, Thailand. He explained that he had heard the police were also stopping travelers going to the Cambodian border and the island of Ko Samui, Thailand.

Weeks later the tourist experienced the same harassment twice more. Once during the day before noon, when he went to the Ekamai station to purchase a bus ticket in advance, the police asked where he was going. He was asked the same question when he returned to make his trip.

The Cambodian Daily reported that Thailand tourism authorities said visitors should not be deterred by fighting along the Burma border where sporadic fighting broke out Sunday February 11, between Burmese troops and ethnic rebels which spread into northern Thailand. They said it had no impact on tourism.

Perhaps the Thai Tourism authorities should look into Thai police harassment of tourists. Police harassment could have a more negative impact on tourism. There are more tourists passing through Bangkok's bus stations than there are at the Thai/Burma border.

Thailand is now running television commercials proclaiming how your life will change when you visit their country. If this is the way they treat tourists… it certainly will.


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