Bangkok Phil

Is Thailand dangerous?

I bet that's a common Google search term

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and in Thailand's defence, The Foreign Ministry has criticized the report for using data that is both 'biased and outdated'

"Poor ranking"

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?'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.   


I have traveled extensively around the world and lived in the USA for most of my life and find Thailand extremely safe except for the way most Thais drive is extremely dangerous. So needless to say you have to stay very aware both as a driver and pedestrian or your just asking for trouble, injury or even death. Also watch out for the honey traps as they can be extremely dangerous for your wallet. But again if you stay aware and do not allow all the blood to flow out of your brain and into your lower extremities you should be fine.

By Thomas, Buriram (14th July 2017)

I lived on Ratchaprarop Road in Bangkok during the troubles with the red shirts, it hasn't perturbed me from wanting to go back. I walked around the city at all hours and felt very safe. I lived in Bangkok for four years and loved it. Hopefully I will get a teaching job soon and go back.

By Wendy Williams, Uk (11th July 2017)

Sorry but Thailand, and especially Bangkok area is considerably more dangerous than much of the rest of South East Asia-with the exception of Cambodia I guess. I've worked and travelled through a lot of the area and feel that Bangkok's dangers are many. Bent cops, crooked tuk-tuk guys in certain areas, ferocious Soi dogs, pickpockets on local transportation, football hooliganism at local matches, the ongoing threat of bombings in Bangkok-to name a few.....

By Mark, Jakarta (10th July 2017)

People in most of the day-to-day parts of Thailand will go out of their way to help you, there are places and circumstances that seem to attract vulnerable foreigners and locals (or foreigners) who prey on them, like the marry-a-man-then-take-the-house-he-bought-for-you scam or the violent people in the southern islands. Most of the country is very safe in terms of not having to worry about street crime, random violence, or otherwise. And btw to the author of that the taxi driver who hit you in the face was wrong, that was thuggery.

By Scott , South Carolina, USA (2nd July 2017)

A Thai once slapped my head. I pushed him over onto his arse and gave him a boot for good measure. I never had any trouble after that either.

By Bigbadb, Not Thailand ( thank the gods) (26th June 2017)

The comment I qouted includes the word "should". If you ever write about Thailand again, check for this word and do a wrewrite so you don't look silly!

I understand should and I understand you are a man who needs to learn that kind of behavior in a civilized country would have resulted in, if the police were involved Phil being told to watch his temper and criminal charge for the tuk-tuk driver.
The only fool here is you.

By Simon McGuire, Bangkok (26th June 2017)

"No you didn't deserve a slap. People in the tourist industry should be able to handle customers without resorting to violence. In addition he was cheating you."

Phil DID deserve a slap. He should have known better... actually - he DID know better and yet still, he let the moment get the better of him... and that happens to even-tempered rational people like Phil.

He took his slap, acknowledged his sin and moved on. Interestingly; NOTHING like that has happened to him in the 20 years since!

The comment I qouted includes the word "should". If you ever write about Thailand again, check for this word and do a wrewrite so you don't look silly!

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (26th June 2017)

The roads are the main source of danger in Thailand. In my 4 years teaching there I lost count of the foreigners I know who got into accidents, Thais who had lost relatives in accidents and the amount of crashed cars trucks and motorbikes I saw. It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when you are in Thailand "living the dream", particularly to those youngsters fresh out of university. My advice would be to stay away from motorbikes and never ever use the death trap minivans to get around, convienient as they may seem.

If it sounds like I'm being a bit of a wet blanket, a simple google image search for "Thailand motorbike accident" will quickly change your mind, though I would recommend just taking my word for it!

By Paul, UK (22nd June 2017)

I stupidly gave him the finger and received a slap across the head for my troubles. I got what I deserved.

No you didn't deserve a slap. People in the tourist industry should be able to handle customers without resorting to violence. In addition he was cheating you.

Is Thailand safe? It's safer than where I grew up, but as it becomes more Westernised I think crime rates will go up. People are definitely, particularly younger people, not as friendly as they once were 20 years ago. Just look in schools many students don't even respect their Thai teachers anymore.

By Simon McGuire, Bangkok (19th June 2017)

Thai violent crime statistics (SE Asia in general actually), they tend to aggregate street crime, crimes of passion, and "business" crime. Because of the inefficiencies of the Thai legal system, a lot of things that would be settled in court in western countries gets settled through hired thugs in Thailand. Ignoring crimes of passion, in Thailand, if you get a beating or get killed you are far more likely to know the person who either did it or ordered it.

It should also be noted that there is a well-known difference between reported crime and actual crime. Reported incidences of domestic
abuse in Thailand are far higher now then 20 years ago, but actual domestic abuse has almost certainly gone down - society's tolerance has gone down leading to less of the crime, and increased incentives to report it when it does happen. The most difficult crime stat to fudge is the murder rate (Governments often fudge official crime numbers - in either direction depending on the situation), and Thailand's has gone down significantly in the last 20 years.

Finally, the ranking system used is silly. Lets look at the raw numbers in the WEF report for Thailand link at WEF_TTCR_2017_web_0401.pdf page 337
ranking score
Safety and security 118 4.0 (the overall score in the article)
Business costs of crime and violence 98 4.0
Reliability of police services 60 4.6
Business costs of terrorism 119 4.0
Index of terrorism incidence 126 1.0
Homicide rate /100,000 pop. 76 3.9

While the methodology used by the WEF isn't clear to me - the numbers driving the result they got are - Thailand ranks very low on the index of terrorism incidence and (maybe) the cost of terrorism. So they are using an index, and embedding other indexes into it - big no no. Basically, their results are being driven by terrorism in Thailand, which is absurd.

O.K., lunch time is over, back to work

By bpk, Bangkok (19th June 2017)

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