More than 150 foreign expatriates and an equal number of Thais attended a day-long “Pattaya Community Safety” meeting Jan. 29 at city hall, taking in briefings from top Royal Thai Police and Pattaya officials, and splitting into groups to brainstorm ideas on crime prevention and suppression.
The meeting was chaired by Pol. Maj. Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, Commander of the Crime Suppression Division. He was joined by Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Pol. Col. Niran Namsuwan, chief of the CSD’s subdivision 3, and Pol. Maj. Gen. Niphon Chaorenpol, Chief of Consumer Protection Police Division.
The panelists (l-r) Pol. Col. Niran Namsuwan, chief of the CSD’s subdivision 3, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Pol. Maj. Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, Commander of the Crime Suppression Division and Pol. Maj. Gen. Niphon Chaorenpol, Chief of Consumer Protection Police Division.
Acknowledging the damage Pattaya’s escalating crime rate is inflicting on tourism and long-term residents, police plan to launch a “tourist assistance” volunteer program and are considering western-style community policing projects to better ensure the safety of foreign visitors and expat residents.
Pol. Maj. Gen Supisarn said, “Recently we have stepped up enforcement in Pattaya in the face of a surge in crime against tourists and foreigners. Today’s Community Safety Workshop is one way to promote cooperation with expats living in the area and we have invited you to present your views on various issues and brainstorm solutions to solving problems.”
(L to R) Richard Smith, Stuart Saunders and Ann Winfield present their views on how to make life safer for expats in Thailand.
Police officers also announced the formation of a tourist-assistance program, which would utilize expats and multilingual Thais to provide information and facilitation services to visitors. Planners suggested the program would build confidence and trust while maintaining safety and enhancing convenience for visitors.
Police officers admitted that crime against persons and property in Thailand is having an impact not only on the foreign residents of Pattaya tourism industry, which he called “fragile” due to competition and overseas economic problems. Safety, he said, is becoming a primary factor in choosing holiday destinations.
Richard Smith receives a Certificate of Appreciation from Pol. Maj. Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath for attending the seminar.
Hoping to better understand foreigners’ views on safety and prevention, seminar organizers split the expats into four groups to brainstorm ideas on security issues suggested by moderators. The groups focused on the causes of crime, building a network of foreign tourists and business owners and the idea of building database to plan safety measures to protect the lives and assets of tourists.
Moderators asked questions such as which areas of the city need special attention and how community policing could improve security for residents. Beach Road, with its preponderance of prostitutes and transvestites, was an easy choice for the top area needing extra focus. But coming to agreement on community policing proved more difficult.
Peter Malhotra and Ann Winfield scrutinise the questionnaire distributed to expats for their comments.
As expat residents often do, group members suggested Thailand should copy western ways, transplanting neighborhood watch and secret witness programs from their home countries, despite obvious cultural differences. But the range of ideas certainly provided choices for police officials looking to take their own approach.
Americans in the groups suggested a neighborhood watch, in which community members patrol residential areas and safe houses are established as havens for those feeling threatened. Opponents pointed out U.S. programs are aimed at schoolchildren and would need to be customized for local conditions.
Pol. Maj. Gen Supisarn Bhakdinarinath watches a group of expats expressing their views during the breakout workshops.
Europeans suggested neighborhood beat cops assigned to specific neighborhoods or, as in the United Kingdom, community volunteers who escort police on neighborhood patrols.
Again, critics countered, the realities of Thai society were not considered, especially the general mistrust among Thais of police. One focus group concluded that to obtain community buy-in, police “would need to be better trained in dealing with a varied public.” The group also suggested that police officer salaries would have to be increased in order to help eliminate corruption.
Expats said foreigners would welcome community policing, in any form, because it would make police “ambassadors of goodwill in neighborhoods” instead of individuals to be “feared by local people.” It could also curtail or eliminate illegal dumping of trash and construction materials, a persistent problem in Jomtien Beach and East Pattaya.
Expats living and working in Pattaya and the Eastern Seaboard attended the special seminar organized for their benefit.