An article by Dan Maxwell appeared on The Asian Correspondent website last week titled "Dangerous Thailand: Authorities' denial a ‘smoke and mirrors' exercise"
The article is based upon a recent report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) which ranked Thailand as 'one of the most dangerous countries in the world for travellers and tourists'. Naturally, and in Thailand's defence, The Foreign Ministry has criticized the report for using data that is both 'biased and outdated'
To quote from Dan's article - "the report highlighted Thailand's high rates of crime, violence and the low reliability of the country's police services as reasons for the country's poor ranking, which placed it in 118th place among 136 countries"
However, Dan does go on to say, "Despite all these worrying statistics, many still consider Thailand an amazing country, though it is important to realise its realities are far removed from the TAT's postcard-perfect imagery"
That's a very fair comment Dan. This question of 'Is Thailand dangerous?' is always a common one. So what do other expat foreigners think? I posed the question on the ajarn Facebook page and there were some interesting responses.
Stupid is as stupid does
Mark, a teacher in Ratchaburi, was first to question the credibility of the report - "Thailand is a safe country for visitors. I've been here nearly two decades and these reports are based on dubious data. I'd rather take my chances in Bangkok than almost any European capital! If you do something stupid then stupid things will happen to you.
The Thai authorities have once again blundered by answering these allegations as it just serves to highlight the negative reports and bring bad publicity. Who cares what the WEF think? They draw conclusions based on surveys, questionnaires and guesswork.
Being on the roads is dangerous in Thailand. Getting drunk in bars and resorts is dangerous. Arguing over inconsequential things can be dangerous. Eating dirty food cooked on a sidewalk is dangerous.
There are lots of things that could make Thailand a risk for tourists but a little common sense and restraint can all but eliminate the dangers. This could be said of anywhere people travel to.
Having read the coverage of this report I can tell you that it appears to be hysterical, vindictive and untrue"
Dan (not the Dan who wrote the article) doesn't seem to care much for the WEF report either. "Let's see now, where would I rather go? Egypt, Qatar, Philippines, anywhere on the African continent, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, or Thailand to feel safe. I don't know who writes this stuff but their criteria must be a lot different than mine"
"If you are driving or riding on the roads?...it's a no brainer" added Jorge, "but a city like Melbourne (Australia) is twice as violent with less than half the population of Bangkok. Who comes up with these stupid reports?"
Wrong place, wrong time?
As Bangkok businessman Blake rightly pointed out - "The things that happen here, happen everywhere in the world. There's always a risk of someone being robbed or raped or assaulted or murdered"
What about the opinions of a couple of long-termers? Chris has been living in Bangkok for eight years - "Not once have I had a problem. People (Thais) usually go out of their way to help you if you need something"
John has got a decade of living in Thailand under his belt. He's also travelled the world a fair bit - "Last time I was in New Guinea we were shot at in a restaurant then later on the way home. In The Philippines, Moslems shot 28 people in a bus. In London, bombs exploded in a bar. I have been in Thailand 10 years and never threatened. This report is not really fair. The world in general has become more hostile. Changes are taking place. We need to adapt also. Thailand as a nation is going through a huge adaption period"
"Thailand is one of the safest countries in the world to live" is the opinion of Saroj from America. "I have been living here since April 2016 and I have found Thailand a lot safer than USA. People are much more concerned about their safety back home"
Always be cautious
Katilyn feels very safe living as an expat in Thailand but adds on a cautious note - "As the last paragraph of the article states, it's important to be aware of your surroundings. I don't put myself in drunken/bar situations and I avoid traveling by car (and if I must, I pay for better quality rides). I think this is the case anywhere you live. Be mindful and stay out of harm's way"
Lorraine, a single mother with two girls, is currently working in Oman but looks back on her time in Thailand with great fondness - "I loved my time in Thailand and I was never threatened in any way. I only work here for the money but I would be back in Thailand if things didn't work out here. I loved my years there.
The Thai people where I stayed, helped me and would have given me the shirts off their back if need be. I saw the side of Thais that I suppose most Westerners don't see. I used to go to markets with my fellow Thai teachers to sell their second hand clothing. I suppose the falang helping to sell was a bit of a draw card too. Never had one "English" friend there. Just loved integrating into their culture.
Step away from the red light districts, bars and shopping malls and it's a whole new world"
One solitary incident
Finally, what about me? Do I think Thailand is dangerous? I guess one's answer to this question for the most part depends on how many situations you (or people you know) have been directly involved in. I have witnessed a few heated arguments and fisticuffs - usually Thai on Thai - but surely you would expect that from living anywhere for the best part of three decades.
Personally, I have only ever been involved in one 'incident' and that was well over twenty years ago. I was showing my parents around Bangkok (never an easy task when the weather is so hot and everyone is getting tetchy) and I got into an argument with a tuk-tuk driver over an inflated fare. I stupidly gave him the finger and received a slap across the head for my troubles. I got what I deserved. Totally my fault and my reaction to this day is something I'm not proud of.
If you gave me the choice of walking back home in the early hours of the morning in either Bangkok or a major UK city such as Birmingham or Manchester, I would choose Bangkok every time.
Driving on Thailand's roads still puts the fear of God up me though. Something deperately needs to be done where road safety is concerned.