Paradise Lost - Information Found?

retirement in thailand concept Every expat who has lived offshore for any number of years will probably lament the changes in culture, safety and lifestyle in his adopted country. A recent post on an expat forum made an interesting point.

The topic was about an expat being targeted in a robbery that resulted in the shooting of his pregnant wife. The expat husband was wounded as well, then killed the perpetrator in self defense.

One post jumped out of the discussion that followed. While this concerned Thailand, it could probably resonate for almost any developing country in the world.

"I can think of a number of factors that might account for a perception of a rising crime rate against farangs (white westerners):

  • The number of farangs living in Thailand has increased dramatically in the last 10-15 years. Thus it may be that while the number of crime incidents involving farangs may indeed be higher, the rate of incidents per 1,000 farangs may be the same or have risen only slightly. When I first arrived here in 1980 it was rare indeed to encounter farangs in Bangkok outside Sukumvit/Silom and some tourist spots. Now they can be found everywhere. The same is true upcountry as well.
  • With the internet we have online communities that report any incident of crime involving farangs. When I lived here in the early 80s if it wasn't in the Post or the Nation, or didn't involve someone I knew .. I didn't hear about it. Now we hear sooner or later about every serious crime incident involving farangs through this forum and others. While it may appear that there is more crime, it is very possible that we just have better information now.
  • When comparing whether or not Thailand is 'safe', behavioral factors should be considered as well. A good percentage of the farangs here either dwell in or near what would be termed 'red light' districts back home, or engage in social interaction with those who work in those districts. That type of area and those types of people generally have higher crime rates anywhere in the world.

    Given that, I would wager that 1,000 farangs spending 30 days cavorting in the bars in Patpong, Pattaya, Phuket would experience much lower crime than a similar cohort spending the same length of time in a sleazy red light district back in their home country. Wherever you have inebriated, wealthy people rubbing shoulders or other body parts with people who are dirt poor you will have problems. That kind of behavioral interaction certainly affects any assessment of relative safety here.
  • Another factor weighing on perceptions of crime here are people's expectations. It is apparent that there is not a small crowd of forum denizens who imagined Thailand as some kind of paradise that was free of any of the problems they experienced back home. When they eventually find out that Thailand too has crime, they feel betrayed, and feel as if Thailand has deteriorated, whereas what has deteriorated is their inaccurate perception of Thailand in the first place.

I will go so far as to say that a case might even be made that Thailand is safer now than it was when I first arrived here 28 years ago. At that time armed robberies of overnight buses were quite frequent on any runs to the South, esp. Phuket. I had a friend who was on a bus that was robbed and a policeman was shot and killed. The bus was then raked with gunfire, although miraculously nobody else was killed. That was 28 years ago.

When you traveled on the train back then you received a little printed notice telling you to shut your window at night due to the possibility of someone stealing your valuables while you slept. Roadblocks and inspections were quite common in Bangkok back then. I recall being stopped one night after a Japanese national was shot in Patpong. I remember an AUA teacher being shot dead by a student in a bank, and a farang DJ was shot in broad daylight on Asoke. Bear in mind that the number of farangs resident in Bangkok was a tiny fraction of what it is today.

I will close by pointing out that it has been said that the plural of anecdote is fact. Until we have some firm statistical evidence everything is conjecture, and it is unfair to state that those who do not share those perceptions are 'in denial'.

Caveat: Please note that I am not saying that Thailand has a low rate of violent crime--in fact it is quite high. However, much of that is Thai on Thai and involves things like business disputes, family disputes, etc.

Until I see evidence to the contrary, I think that the chances of farangs falling victim to the kind of random violent crimes that we all worry about and that make life in many of our big cities back home almost untenable .. car jackings, drive by shootings, muggings, serial killers, street gangs, etc. are quite small."