Thailand has a relatively high crime rate compared to other countries in Asia. Thais are generally law-abiding people but there is a lot of drug abuse in the country, and going hand in hand with that are thefts and petty crime, and on occasion some serious crimes. Also be aware that organized crime and a variety of unsavory characters are involved in the gambling and sex industries. Snatch and run thieves on motorscooters operate in Bangkok, Phuket and other places.

By some estimates the underground economy of drugs, gambling, prostitution, protection and human trafficking is a third of the size of the legitimate economy. Northeast Thailand has a long tradition of gangsters and thugs enforcing the will of corrupt politicians an businessmen. Thieves re known as “khamoys”. One favorite technique is entering a bus from the rear door with a knife or gun, rabbing wllaets, purses, watches and gold chains and exiting through the front door to mke a getwaya on a friend’s motorcycle.

Pirating and counterfeiting are problems in Thailand. Fake diplomas and the like are available. Looted objects are sold at antique shops. Thailand was one of 11 nations on a U.S. copyright watch list in 2010. It was one nine nations on list in 2008 and has been a prominent name on he list since the 1980s. Copyists have even copied official portraits of the king and the royal pets and marketed them as genuine.

Also See Separate Articles on Illegal Drugs, Prostitution, Animal Smuggling and CRIME AND FOREIGNERS IN THAILAND: SCAMS, MURDERED TOURISTS AND CRIMES BY FOREIGNERS

Drug-Related Crime in Thailand

Methamphetamines are a serious problem in Thailand and many crimes have been blamed on the drug. Almost everyday there are stories about gang violence, deaths and personal tragedies associated with the drug. Two thirds of all urban crimes and one third of all traffic accidents are connected with the drug. It provides jobs for gangster, dealers, and corrupt police and has been called “the greatest threat to the nation since Communism.”

Newspapers have run stories about an unemployed man who was high on amphetamines and stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife on a train platform; about a mother who had her policeman son assassinated because the drug had turned him into a “monster”; and about one user who stabbed nine people after his television set was stolen. There are also stories of users who stay up 96 hours, 168 hours even 192 hours without sleeping.

One of the worst incidents, in December 1999, involved a man who had been up three days straight doing amphetamines and was walking aimlessly down the street mumbling to himself. When police stopped him he grabbed a two-year-old girl and but a knife to her throat. After the media arrived on scene, he panicked and slit the girl’s throat. Images of the bloodied girl, with her neck sliced open were shown on the evening news and placed on the front pages of newspapers, sickening the nation. The man ended up committing suicide by running as hard as he could into a wall.

In December 2004, a construction laborer with a knife held a nine-year-old boy hostage for four hours in Bangkok before police shot him with rubber bullets and a crowd severely beat him, The 45-year-old laborer was high on drugs at the time. He released the boy after he was given a car he demanded to take him to a bus. The boy was grabbed outside his school as he prepared to walk home and had a knife at his throat during much of the stand off. The boy escaped unharmed. The laborer was not seriously injured in the mob attack.

Youth and University Student Crime in Thailand

Thailand has a relatively high juvenile crime rate. There are problems with drug and alcohol abuse, lawlessness and antisocial behavior. In Bangkok and other cities there are viscous youth gangs armed with guns and knives. In the early 2000s, the bodies of 13 dead teenagers were found dumped at a waste site in northeastern Thailand. The bodies of five males and eight females were all badly bruised and had broken necks. The victims were believed to have been migrant workers from Myanmar.

There have been reports of gangs of university students who turn to violence to defend their school’s honor. First year university students are often forced to joins gangs and have to prove their mettle by doing things like stealing the school shorts or belt buckles from members of rival university gangs. Older members patrol their turf in cars and attack rival gang members who enter their territory.

The victim of a university gang attack told the Independent, “They wanted my workshop shirt and although I took it off and gave it them they slapped me in the face. A student from my school refused and a knife was brought down on his head.” In another case, a students from one school boarded a bus and asked if there were any students from a rival school on the bus. When one young man stood up he was hot three times and died on the way to the hospital.

In an incident involving more than 200 students from the Bangkok campus of the Institute of Technology, a gang armed with guns and grenades, attacked a rival gang at the Bangkok Commercial College, leaving one students shot dead and dozens injured. The attack occurred after insults were traded between students of the two schools. In a riot that lasted for more than an hour, ten vehicles were smashed and spray painted. One girl jumped from a second floor to get away from attackers pursing her with knives and guns. Of the 210 students who were arrested, 93 had tested positive for drug tests.

One battle between rival school gangs, involving knives, in downtown Bangkok in September 2003, left one youth dead and more than 150 injured. Authorities briefly detained more than 1,000 people. Most were released after their parents paid fines of few hundred baht.

Ninja Attacks and Murder in Thailand

At one time Thailand had the world’s second highest murder rate after Columbia. Many murders are drug-related or gangster-style murders between political and business rivals.

In March 2000, a medical student was sentenced to life in prison for the killing of his estranged girlfriend, whom he chopped into small pieces and flushed down a toilet to hide the evidence. The young man, Serm Sakornach pleaded guilty. He was expected to get the death penalty but by was given the lighter sentences because he had pleaded guilty and confessed.

In 2003, two plainclothes policemen were beaten and stabbed to death in southern Thailand by a mob that believed the two men were ninjas. Rumors had been circulating that ninjas were in the area and they were causing misfortune, killing people and raping women. The two men, who had just been assigned to the area, stopped at a café and had a coffee and asked for direction. Word got out that strangers were in town and they were accosted by a mob. The men managed to flee through a rubber plantation and seek help from a village head. The headman tried to protect the men but ultimately he was unsuccessful and the mob attacked and killed the men. Similar incidents had happened in the late 1990s in Indonesia.

Hallucinating Thai Mother Kills, Cooks and Eats Her Young Sons

In August 2012, the Daily mail reported: “A Thai woman accused of butchering and eating her two young sons has claimed she was hallucinating and thought they were pigs. She allegedly cooked and ate her sons aged one and five and was found by police sleeping in her home surrounded by body parts. [Source: Sara Malm, Daily Mail, August 22, 2012 =]

“The woman is a member of the Musur hill tribe who live in the mountainous region of Chiang Mai near the Burmese border. The woman has been taken to Suang Prung Hospital where doctors believe she has yet to realise she butchered her sons Upon her arrest, police in the Mae Ai district of Chiang Mai discovered that the woman had received treatment for mental illness in 2007 and had recently stopped taking her medication. ‘The woman killed her children because she didn't continue her treatment and didn't take her medication,’ Mental Health Department deputy director general Dr Kiattiphum Wongrachit told Bangkok Post yesterday. He added that it is believed that in her hallucinogenic state she thought her children were pigs.=

“The woman had been left alone with her children as her husband left for a few days to get her medication, according to The Bangkok Post. ‘I had to go out of town for a couple of days. I told her that I would bring back the medication she needs. ‘I never imagined that something like this would happen,’ he told the paper. The woman, whose name has been withheld for her family’s protection, has been charged with murder, although details of the charge have yet to be released. She has been deemed mentally unfit to fight her case and has been sent to Suan Prung Psychiatric Hospital in Chiang Mai for treatment.”=

Rape and Other Sex Crimes in Thailand

According to Health Service Support Department director-general Dr Supachai Kunaratanapruk the number of abused women and children seeking help from Peungdai centres across the country was 47 a day in 2007, up from 37 a day in 2006 and 32 a day in 2005. [Source: The Nation, November 21, 2007]

The number of rape cases jumped from 3,741 in 1997 to 5,052 in in 2004, with police only capturing 36 percent of the assailants in 2004 compared to 69 percent in 1997. A report blamed pornographic films and obscene photographs on the Internet and in the media for the increase. Thai newspapers put rape stories, with phonographs of the victims, on their front pages.

It is estimated that only five percent of women who are raped file reports. In many cases the victims do not file reports out of fear or embarrassment or because they know their attackers. For a long time women’s groups have campaigned for a criminal law that recognizes marital rape. Some take the law into their own hands. The number of fatal attacks committed by Thai women against abusive male partners rose from 227 in 1995 to 334 in 2000.

According to “Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Thailand”: “ Rape is a criminal offense but the law is rarely enforced. However, rape crime reports are abundant in mainstream and tabloid journalism, often written in a sensational and graphic style which seems designed to titillate the reader. No data exist regarding the extent of the problem. In a study of northern Thai men conscripted to the army in 1990, 5 percent of the 21-year-old men reported having forced or coerced a woman for sex. The incidence of incest is not known. These matters are rarely discussed or reported. [Source: “Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Thailand (Muang Thai)” by Kittiwut Jod Taywaditep, M.D., M.A., Eli Coleman, Ph.D. and Pacharin Dumronggittigule, M.Sc., late 1990s]

“Social support for women who have been raped or victimized by incest is not widely available. Consistent with the men's rationalization that they are provoked beyond control, a woman is sometimes viewed as provoking rape because of her appearances (e.g., wearing a provocative dress) or her social behavior (e.g., drinking or frequenting potentially unsafe places). Consequently, Thai parents teach their girls not to dress improperly, and not to go alone to unfamiliar places in order to avoid being raped, as if rape is a price one pays for violating the code of kulasatrii. Others, following the cultural script of courtship and sex, see rape as an obscure area where men's coercion and women's surrendering cannot be clearly differentiated. Women who have been raped or experienced incest in Thailand are socially stigmatized based on these attitudes, in addition to the perception that the woman is flawed because she has been “violated.” Understandably, women or their families rarely report these incidents.”

Human Trafficking in Thailand

Trafficking in women and children and forced prostitution and labor are serious problems in Thailand. Thailand has been named by the United Nations as one of the world’s worst offenders in human trafficking both interns of destination for trafficked persons and a source of trafficked people.

Many victims are girls and women coerced or lured in Thailand’s sex industry. Boys and men are not exempt, because many of them are forced into backbreaking work on fishing trawlers. Law enforcement officials blame weak laws and poor international cooperation for hindering efforts to reign in the problem. "The loopholes in the different regulations and laws used by |each country will be reduced," Pol Captain Yin Yin he said. “When the databases of various countries are linked, prevention of human trafficking will also get a big boost. "Cooperation will help a lot. We have to do our best," he said.

Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall of Reuters wrote: “Thailand faces difficult questions about its future and global status. Among those is whether it will join North Korea, the Central African Republic and Iran among the world's worst offenders in fighting human trafficking. The signs are not good. The U.S. State Department's annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report ranks countries on their record for combating the crime. For the past four years, Thailand has sat on the TIP Report's so-called Tier 2 Watch List, the second-lowest rank. It will be automatically downgraded to Tier 3 next year unless it makes what the State Department calls "significant efforts" to eliminate human trafficking. Dropping to Tier 3 status theoretically carries the threat of U.S. sanctions. In practice, the United States is unlikely to sanction Thailand, one of its oldest treaty allies in Asia. But to be downgraded would be a major embarrassment to Thailand, which is now lobbying hard for a non-permanent position on the United Nations Security Council. [Source: Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall, Reuters, December 4, 2013]

Also See Articles on Rohingya, Prostitution Under Sex Under People and Life and on Labor Under Economics

Human Trafficking and the Sex Trade in Thailand

It is conservatively estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 men, women, and children—but particularly women and young girls—are engaged in prostitution as part of Thailand’s illegal sex tourism industry. Of these, between 30,000 and 40,000 prostitutes are under the age of 18 years; this figure does not include foreign migrants, many of whom come from Burma, Cambodia, China, and Laos. Thai and migrant women also are trafficked to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Bahrain, Australia, South Africa, Europe, and the United States for prostitution and sweatshop labor. Men, women, and children from China and Southeast Asian neighbors also are trafficked for sweatshop, fishery, construction, farm, and industrial labor. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Chaiyakorn Bai-ngern and Thachayan Waharak wrote in The Nation: “Many locals and job-seekers from neighbouring countries continue to be ensnared in the sex industry or trapped in slave labour despite the enactment of the Anti-Human-Trafficking Act in 2008. "Thailand is still a source, transit and destination in human trade," Yanee Lertkrai, inspector-general of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, said. Several border provinces in the North and Northeast are the starting points. "The victims are sent from there to other provinces in Thailand and often to a third country," she said.[Source: Chaiyakorn Bai-ngern, Thachayan Waharak, The Nation, June 28, 2012]

The victims also come from nearby countries such as Laos, Myanmar and even China. Nukool Chinfuk of Hat Yai University's Political Science Faculty has conducted research on the problem and found that it is getting very serious in the South. "Some gangs have brought Myanmar people to Ranong, from where some are sent to Samut Sakhon, while some others are sent to Thailand's lower Southern region, Malaysia and Singapore," he said. More than 120 establishments are offering sex services in Songkhla's Sadao district alone, he said. Most of the sex workers there come from Thailand's northern and northeastern regions as well as China and Laos. "The longer the problem persists, the younger the victims become," he said.

Many sources put the ages of the youngest victims of prostitution at 11-15. They enter the flesh trade in the hope of providing financial support to their impoverished families. Pol Lt-Colonel Jatuporn Arun-rerkthawin from the Department of Special Investigation said Chinese-speaking women were now much in demand among customers of brothels in the South. "Those places serve many Chinese-Malaysians," he said. "Women from countries north of Thailand have nice skin and good |figures."

Pol Captain Yin Yin Ae, head of anti-human-trafficking in Myan-mar's Tachilek, said late last year that joint operations with Thai officials had rescued 36 Myanmar girls younger than 18 from a human-smuggling gang. "These girls left their home towns without knowing that they would be forced into prostitution," he said. "After they crossed the border, they were sold to a Thai agent who locked them up and beat them in a bid to force them into the flesh trade." Another source said many Myanmar girls were brought into Thailand via Tak's Mae Sot district or Chiang Rai and sent to a holding centre for training in sex services. "The good-looking ones will be taken to Bangkok and the rest to the southern border provinces," the source said.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated May 2014

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