January 06, 2014 00:00
By Bamrung Amnatcharoenrit
The Tourist Police want the government to add 2,000 new officers to the force to secure their role in meeting the country's tourism-revenue target of Bt2.2 trillion by next year.
Pol Maj-General Apichai Tiamataya, commander of the Tourist Police Division, said the current number of officers, at 700, was not enough to deal with the fast-growing number of foreign tourists coming to the Kingdom. The more the number of arrivals rises, the more problems take place.
He said it was important that the government recognises the need to bolster the division if it wants the tourism industry to keep driving the economy.
In fact, what he has requested cannot compare to what the industry has contributed to the government’s coffers.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand projects that 28 million foreign tourists will arrive this year, bringing in revenue of Bt1.33 trillion.
The Tourism Council of Thailand says the number of arrivals could be even higher, at 30 million. And currently, tourism revenue accounts for more than 10 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
‘Double number of stations to 70’
Besides adding more officers, Apichai said his agency, a division of the Royal Thai Police, needed to double the number of police |stations to 70 in order to cover the new tourism sites across the country that have been promoted in recent years.
Currently, each Tourist Police station has eight to 10 officers on average, and most of these have to take care of neighbouring provinces as well as their own. For example, officers in Phitsanulok have to look after parts of Sukhothai as well.
In major tourist centres such as Pattaya and Phuket, the workload can be overwhelming. To help reduce this burden, the division has hired 1,000 temporary employees on one-year contracts.
These are bachelor-degree holders who possess foreign-language skills.
Apichai said new permanent recruits should also be competent in language skills. Thailand is a major tourism destination attracting people from all over the world, but there are not enough Tourist Police officers who can speak Mandarin, Russian or French, to name a few.
Ranked by nationality, the highest number of complaints to the Tourist Police are lodged by Chinese, followed by people from European countries and Russia. Belongings lost on public buses and lost passports dominate the cases, followed by taxi drivers who refuse to serve people or to use the meter. There are also some complaints about tour operators who do honour their service agreements.