Thailand's plan to deploy Chinese police at tourist hotspots sparks debate

By Duc Trung   November 14, 2023 | 01:55 am PT
Thailand's plan to deploy Chinese police at tourist hotspots sparks debate
Tourists visit Wat Arun temple in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo by Reuters
Thailand is pondering allowing Chinese police to patrol some tourist destinations to increase the confidence of Chinese tourists, but the proposal has been met with criticism.

Thapanee Kiatphaibool, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the idea of cooperation with Chinese police was raised during a meeting on security for Chinese tourists with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Suvarnabhumi airport on Sunday.

"We're in talks with the Chinese embassy about a patrol program to bring Chinese police to Thailand," Kiatphaibool told reporters as cited by Bangkok Post.

The plan is part of Thailand’s latest efforts to lure Chinese tourists which used to be the largest source of tourists for its inbound tourism before the pandemic. Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has recently seen a drop in Chinese tourists, especially following a recent mall shooting that killed a Chinese citizen.

Kiatphaibool defended the plan, saying a similar program was successfully implemented in Italy in the past.

However, the idea triggered some criticism. A senior police officer, who asked not to be named, told The Nation on Monday that the proposal raised by the Thai tourism authority could not be implemented due to "the restrictions of Thai security law."

"I believe this project cannot be done because Thai law does not permit foreign officials to join the operations of Thai police. It will clearly break the law," the officer added.

To address the controversy, government spokesman Chai Wacharonke told Bangkok Post the plan was aimed at busting Chinese mafia groups operating in Thailand and had nothing to do with Thailand’s independence or sovereignty.

Starting from September, Thailand granted visa-free entry for Chinese nationals to attract tourists from the world’s largest outbound tourism market during the peak year-end months.

Despite visa exemption, the daily influx of Chinese tourists has hovered around 8,000-10,000. Chinese visitors accounted for 11 million of a record 39.9 million foreign tourists to Thailand in 2019.

This year, Thailand eyed five million Chinese arrivals but so far has only received around three million.

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