The killing of a young British tourist in Koh Phangan, near Koh Samui in Southern Thailand, forces authorities to finally act to better enforce controls of firearms in the province. Especially as Thailand remains one of the few countries in Southeast Asia with travel advisories from the Foreign Office.
BANGKOK- Petty crime and cheating in Thailand against tourists happens –especially in tourist areas. But violence and killing against foreign travellers remain extremely rare. Then the shooting on New Year’s eve of a young British national, who was celebrating at a beach party, came as a surprise. The unfortunate victim was caught in an exchange of fire shooting between two rival gangs on the beach of Haad Rin in the Island of Koh Phangan.
The killing generated the immediate response of Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatphut. On Thursday, the Governor announced to change laws in the Province by implementing strict firearms control measures and converting most tourist spots into gun-free zones. The procedure should take a year as the police will have to confiscate weapons and stop renewing gun owners’ licences.
“All tourist places will be declared free-gun zones in one year,” Mr Chatpong said. “Officers from a border patrol police unit and village defence volunteers will be deployed to help the work of Koh Phangan police station which has only 40 men.”
Such violence is potentially damaging the reputation of Surat Thani Province, a well-known destination of travellers, especially due to the presence of both islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Following the killing of the young British, the police arrested the killer, a 26-year old man who recognized to be the shooter and confessed that he unintentionally shot the tourist while targeting his rivals. The Police will also look at locating all illegal weapon sells in the province.
Authorities will also strengthen existing legislation over the protection of tourists against car rental and motorbike rental companies as well as jet skis. Many tourists have been victims of scans where operators keep deposits to compensate for supposed damage. Operators of those businesses will now have to carry an insurance against damage or see their license being denied.
Stricter measure to enforce laws are more than ever necessary in Thailand as the Kingdom receives an increasing number of travellers who can be easy prays for gangs or unscrupulous locals. UK Foreign Office issued a travel advisory on its website under the Thailand section. The advisory reminds UK nationals to be on alert when travelling in the Kingdom: “Seven British nationals have been murdered in Thailand since January 2009. Western tourists have been victims of vicious, unprovoked attacks by gangs in Koh Phangan. These attacks are particularly common around the time of the Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars in Haad Rin on Koh Phangan. On 1 January 2013 a British national was killed in a shooting incident while at a beach party”.
“Violent assaults and robberies have been reported in Chaweng, Koh Samui. Attacks have also occurred in other tourist districts in Thailand frequented by western tourists including Chiang Mai. There have been incidents of sexual offences committed against foreign men and women, especially in the Koh Samui archipelago. Since 2009, a number of British nationals were victims of serious sexual offences.
There have been incidents where tourists have had their drinks drugged in both tourist areas and red light districts. Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and at clubs and parties, particularly in Koh Samui and Pattaya and, at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan, where date rapes have been reported. Some British nationals have suffered severe psychiatric problems because of drug use, resulting in some suicides.
Tourists have also been robbed after bringing visitors to their hotel rooms. In some cases their drinks were drugged. Ensure that your passport, wallet and other valuable possessions are secure at all times”, indicates the Foeign Office on its website.