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Govt warns scammers as Thailand is named top destination

Thailand has long been ranked as one of the world's best tourist destinations, with so many awards under its belt. However, the Kingdom's tourism industry is not untainted.

Now that Thailand has finally made it to the Huffington Post's list of top 20 destinations for New Year celebrations, the government is calling on all Thais to look after tourists in their neighbourhoods.

This plea comes as Thailand's reputation continues getting dealt on blow after another from reports about scams and crimes against foreigners.

Just recently, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article warning Australian tourists to be wary of extortion gangs in Phuket, some of who are allegedly in cahoots with local police.

Australian Ambassador to Thailand James Wise and his British counterpart, Mark Kent, have joined the Tourism Ministry's campaign to tackle tourist scams in the resort-island of Phuket. The key scams involve taxi and jet-ski operators in both Phuket and Pattaya, the article said.

In addition to all this, two Russian nationals were robbed and raped in Chon Buri late on Christmas Day.

The women in their early 30s told police that they were forced into a pick-up truck at gunpoint while they were walking back to their hotel. They claimed they were attacked by three men, who did not just rob them of their cash, cellphones and jewellery, but also assaulted them sexually.

The women, who were left to fend for themselves in a forested area, came upon a house and begged for help. The owners of the house contacted the police for them.

"We will hunt down the attackers," Pattaya police inspector Pol Lt-Colonel Patsa Dejparkkul promised.

Thailand needs to take serious steps in stopping crimes against tourists, otherwise its appeal as a great destination might fade.

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said yesterday that the issue of travellers' safety had been raised and discussed in the latest Cabinet meeting. He said that while the authorities will do their best in strictly enforcing the law, ordinary citizens should also lend a hand.

"Please take care of foreigners. If anything happens to them, please step in to help," Surapong said.

He added that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had also instructed all relevant authorities to ensure the safety of tourists especially during the holidays.

"Don't hurt Thailand's tourism industry," he said, adding that criminals targeting foreigners ruin the country's image.

Tourists can call the 1672, (02) 134 4077 or (02) 356 0650 hotline for assistance any time of the day or night, he said.

Meanwhile, Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatphut promised yesterday to introduce measures that would protect tourists from scammers in the jet-ski, car and boat rental services.

He said this after a tourist complained that a jet-ski operator on Chawaeng beach attacked him after he refused to pay the exorbitant fees demanded. Four suspects have been arrested in the case.

"If all operators are required to buy insurance policies, this problem should reduce," he said.


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