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Thailand's Reputation Murdered by Statistics

Thailand's Reputation Murdered by Statistics

Monday, January 14, 2008
A DIPLOMATIC row could be brewing over the deaths of foreigners in Thailand.

The issue has been simmering for some time, sparked locally by last year's killing by unknown assailants of a Norwegian on Phuket.

Without statistical evidence, it would be wrong to assume that every violent crime or theft committed on a visitor was part of some national ''crime wave''.

But an article in Britain's Independent newspaper on January 13 has elevated the fuss a notch or two by asking: ''With so many Britons murdered in Thailand, why does our Government not warn of the dangers faced there?''

Author Andrew Spooner goes on to say that at least 17 Britons have been murdered in Thailand since 2003, making the Land of Smiles ''one of the most dangerous places on earth for its British residents.''

''On average,'' Spooner writes, ''about 50 civilian UK nationals are murdered around the world each year (excluding terrorist attacks).

''This means that almost 10 percent of all murders of Britons abroad are committed in Thailand - a chilling figure, given that Thailand comprises only 0.6 percent of all foreign travel from UK shores.''

Spooner adds that ''what can be speculated with some confidence is that of the 226 average annual deaths of British citizens in Thailand recorded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a large percentage are in Pattaya.''

He goes on to say that Andy Pearce, the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Bangkok, ''admits that the murder rate of Britons resident in Thailand is about the same as the domestic Thai rate - roughly five times higher than in the UK - but adds that this is only an estimate.''

Spooner says there are thought to be about 50,000 British resident in Thailand, and quotes Pearce as saying: ''To create the kind of advice needed on murder rates would require a greater statistical base and more research.''

At least Spooner does say that of the 420,000 annual British travellers to Thailand, only a tiny percentage are the victims of crime.

Another article in The Sydney Morning Herald on January 14 made the point that while crime in Britain is dropping, most people believe the opposite is true because the media emphasises gory individual cases.

This is precisely what Spooner does in most of his article.

Oddly, against the trend to lower overall crime, murder cases in Britain have apparently risen to 746 a year, up from 608.

So that's where Spooner's somewhat spurious case rests for now. Thai diplomats should take him to task for blackening Thailand's name with statistics that are incomplete and far from conclusive.

We do agree with him about one thing: Pattaya can be bad for your health.

What is also true, though, is that there's rising concern in diplomatic circles about the need for Thai authorities to pursue perpetrators more vigilantly.

A tourist who accuses a local of rape has a flight home to catch, and that's often the point at which police are forced to close the case.

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