Crime and Thailand Vs The Rest
By Mumbo Jumbo
Like your comparison to NZ, an expat needs to know what the alternatives are and avoid the mistake many are making, of relocating elsewhere, on the grounds that Thailand is deteriorating. Where isn't!?
I am one of many (I assume) looking for the ultimate cheap paradise to relocate to. Having spent 3 months over two trips in Thailand 99 & 02 and Dominican Republic 04 & 05, some comparisons/differences are interesting. Especially as the DR is also well known as a (former) sex paradise, this is not my primary motivation for relocation but each to their own. Like Thailand, the current government foolishly want to clamp down on the goose that laid the golden egg, (sex tourists and backpackers), in the delusion that quality "family orientated tourists" will replace them. Had I sent this before last week's illuminating discussion on crime being on the increase in Thailand, I would have said, Thai visitors moaning about the Tourist Police and their lack of English spoken and general crime, should visit the DR and would never complain again. Let's see, I hope Thailand still wins this debate.
During my trips to Thailand I did not experience any crime, and at the time did not even consider, for example the risk, of a girl stealing from my room, or walking down the wrong street with a camera. I think on reflection, they were needless risks, it costs nothing to be "street smart", and I recommend the DR as a training ground!
On trip one to the DR, I was pick-pocketed one hour after arrival. An ugly ho comes up and gets over friendly. Loose $, but it could have been my wallet. The worst lowlight was my debit card was cloned in the last week and I didn't realize till I got home, and found my bank account totally drained and beyond my allowed overdraft limit. This could only have only been at a petrol station where they have internal security cameras, in theory to protect them from crime. Filming me entering my PIN was a no brainer.
Tip 1: Buy a waterproof container with a string attached, which you can loop round your belt and use this on a day to day basis. Only use your wallet with ATM card when you have to. Bonus tip a money belt for emergencies helps.
Tip 2: Pay the surcharge to use a credit card rather than a debit card, and only use them at an ATM, as then it is your bank's money that they are giving away, mainly due to their inadequate security systems. My main account was frozen while investigations took place.
Tip 3: Hold your spare hand over the buttons, when entering your ATM pin, as cameras, as well as humans are never far away. Go back to your room and lock the card away, and return with the daily minimum cash.
Tip 4: This is tricky as no option is foolproof, you need to keep a regular eye on your online statements, this means a) carrying your own laptop b) carrying your own USB flash card with your details on, preferably written in a way that will make no sense to a thief i.e. Disguise you're online IDs as a friend's telephone no. and you can copy and paste your passwords not type them or c) or risk the cafe's own equipment which may have a keyboard tracker. That and the usual Windows security problems.
This trip I thought I had the street smarts learnt from the last time. How wrong I was. A routine walk along a deserted beach path, led me to 2 crooks fixing their motorbike. Out came the gun, out came my money and the bike fixed itself by magic, and on they went. (They didn't get my money belt back up). The local police were worse than useless, a local Red Cross rep translated and I was told to sign a scribble they wrote in Spanish in a school exercise book. No copy for me = no insurance.
I trusted a local to provide me a car, driver and himself as translator to tour the countryside, to take pictures. After 2 successful trips, on the last day, the driver got lost and ended up down a dirt track, my "trusted guide" told me the driver was armed, and they dumped me in the country side and drove off with a lot of expensive equipment, ironically leaving me $15 approx, to find my way home.
Tip 4 Don't bring expensive equipment!
However the point of this anecdote is to compare the Thai tourist police to the DR ones, and hope that the Thais do not stoop to this level. I by accident came across a local policeman while wandering down a road trying to find a taxi to get back to my hotel, where the thieves knew I had a laptop and they had the key! I explained the urgency. Now a long drawn process of meaning less discussion, and the usual scribble in an exercise book. + The cop helped him self to 25% of my dwindling funds needed to get back to Boca Chica. No copy = no insurance, and finally I was allowed on my way.
The next day I then went to the local tourist police, to get an authorized statement for insurance purposes. No English spoken but a street spiv translated. No can do, not our region, not our problem. Go to the next town. Day after same answer. I had to go back to the original city, which I did not want to do.
Finally back in my hotel, another tourist who I was chatting to had his own guide. I showed them the pic I had taken of the crook, he said I know who he is and where he lives, and for the right price, the right cop will actually arrest him, AND will get me a notarized copy of what was stolen for insurance purposes.
I reluctantly agreed $30 for the guide and $150 for the cop
Off they went and one hour later brought the crook to my hotel for identification. (It is amazing how money greases the otherwise rusty engine), using the other guest's hire car for the process!
Then they come back with the documents and a request for a bonus payment of 2X the agreed fee to seal the deal. An extra cop had to be brought in yada yada. What can you do when dealing with blackmailers, as armed and bent, as the crooks they are supposed to be catching? I am not an expert, I just paid to end the nightmare.
I then left the country very quickly! Is the crook doing a year of hard time as promised, or sipping Martinis round the pool with his arresters. (No court necessary here) the word of the accuser is enough, especially if he is the wealthier than the accused. This is a 2 way street if, as has happened, a girl accuses a tourist of rape, whether or not she consented.
In conclusion: The world is deteriorating economically and politically. The West is drowning in debt, which will mean less tourists, (as is happening now), and more desperation by the locals to make up the difference by fair means or foul (as is happening now). Racism, protectionism and violent crime will flourish, as funds for police, tourist or otherwise diminish. When Asia weens itself off western exports and tourism, and can become self sufficient, it will prosper but there will be an unavoidable downturn meanwhile, which will be unpleasant for tourists and locals alike.
Tip for Americans only. (I'm not American or interested in sub 18s, but saw enough of the former misbehaving in the DR to assume they NEED to know this. Shagging a prostitute under 18 ANYWHERE in the world carries a 20 year sentence. Sadly if she is using fake ID and you meet her in an over 18 environment, this apparently does not excuse you. Expect bribery galore over this loop hole. Correctly explained here
On Balance, I still think the day Thailand becomes a no go area, there won't be many alternatives. Those who think it's a crime free paradise will get their wake up call, if not today, the day they roll around drunk at 4am with a Rolex on, hurling abuse at locals, with a girl with fake ID on their arm.
The DR sounds like hell.