PATTAYA - In a move to fight widespread crime, especially that which targets foreigners in Pattaya - the resort town which attracts more than 9 million tourists a year - the local administration says it has joined hands with police to launch a larger crime-busting force.
This follows an advocacy group's call for drastic action against exploitative crimes like child prostitution, which allegedly enjoys police protection and draws a significant number of foreigners to Pattaya.
Kanjanas Memanas, manager of Human Help Network Foundation Thailand, said sources had revealed child prostitution was so lucrative it is being conducted on ships anchored off the Pattaya coast in order to avoid police detection.
Meanwhile, sexual services involving adult prostitutes of both genders remain a tourist magnet. The easy money even attracts amateurs like office workers and government servants, in addition to career prostitutes based in Pattaya or neighbouring towns, who roam the beaches or wait for customers in busy areas such as Walking Street, Kanjanas said.
A negative rating recently by travel website CNNgo.com, which said Pattaya was one of seven places in Thailand that travellers should avoid due to frequent crimes, has prompted the Royal Thai Police to mobilise more officers to boost the Pattaya force's crime-busting capacity. The extra officers come from sections such as Highway Police, Marine Police, the Crime Suppression Division and Immigration Bureau, in addition to Tourism Police, who have long operated in Pattaya and Chon Buri province.
The new police taskforce will be led by deputy police commander Pol General Wuthi Liptapanlop and assisted by authorities in Bang Lamung district - where Pattaya is located - as well as a group of foreign civil patrolmen, Thai rescue workers and civilians from different charities.
Senior area commander Pol Maj-General Sanchai Chai-amphorn said Russians made up the largest group of victims, due mostly to their large numbers in the resort city. The second-largest victims of crime were Britons, followed by Italians.
The taskforce has been launched in preparation for a spike in the number of visitors over the high season, which kicks off in December, Sanchai said. He said violent and petty crimes averaged about 1,000 per month and that the total number should not exceed 9,000 by the year-end. He did not say how many crimes had been committed so far in 2013.
The largest number of incidents recorded have been committed by foreign tourists, including drunken brawls or rows allegedly stemming from tourists refusing to pay for services or products they purchase. Problems such as tourists being intimidated by local operators, such as the well-documented jet-ski scheme, have decreased thanks to police intervention and mediation.
Sanchai said the police were keeping an eye on short-term visitors, migrant workers, as well as people who dabble in prostitution.
Provincial Chon Buri police chief Pol Maj-General Khatcha Thatsart said insurance against property damage could help cut down on intimidation of tourists, though he admitted at least 30 snatch-and-run cases were reported daily. He said Chon Buri had a population of 1.3 million people, as well as an unspecified number of people based in Pattaya, while the Chon Buri police had a mere 2,700 officers.
Last year, 50,000 crimes were reported in theProvince, and 13,000 of these were in Pattaya.
Katcha said the extra police personnel and the mobilisation of the taskforce should reduce the number of the crimes in both Chon Buri and Pattaya this year.
Raids conducted between August 16 and 31 turned up 1,280 suspects and 40 handguns. Police are also working on several high-profile cases including the recent rape of two Russian women.