And most of them were Russian, although that’s hardly surprising considering that Russian travellers are, by far, the most numerous arriving at Phuket InternationalAirport each day at the moment.
The island has seen a huge surge in formal criminal charges against foreigners this year, with over 180 cases recorded since January. Among the top three nationalities involved in these cases are Russians, French and British. Phuket police are taking a low-tolerance attitude towards tourists and longer-stay foreigners behaving badly this year, including the introduction of the red and yellow card ‘penalty’ system.
In response to the rise in criminal cases on the island, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew recently chaired a meeting with representatives from 23 countries, including Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea and the UK, to discuss the situation and provide updates on cases involving foreigners on the island.
The authorities have attributed the increase in arrests to the integration of various government agencies in Phuket’s crime-fighting measures. These measures have led to the arrest of foreign perpetrators for offences such as theft, illegal entry, and drunk driving. Notably, police also apprehended two individuals this month, including a Swiss man, in a human-trafficking case involving minors being procured for sexual services. Arrest warrants are out for three others over the same case.
Phuket Immigration Chief Pol Col Thanet Sukchai revealed that there are approximately 32,000 foreigners staying on the island, mostly tourists and expats from Russia, the UK, France, China and Germany. These visitors come to Phuket for various reasons, such as tourism, business, study, or retirement.
However, most of the foreign offenders were found to have broken the law in the Patong area, with offences including drunk driving, visa overstay, illegal entry, and working without a valid visa.
To combat this trend, over 800 hotel business owners have joined the island’s crime-free measures, with the number of participants soon expected to increase to 2,000 hotels, covering the entire island. Under the measure, police will give a yellow warning for a first offence, with punishments then ranging from informing their respective consulates to banning them from staying in the kingdom. Red cards are issued to people for serious crimes and usually results in immediate deportation.
Despite the surge in criminal cases, Phuket remains Thailand’s popular destination for tourists, with an average of 14,000 arrivals at Phuket International Airport every day this month. Between March 1 – 15 there were 184,762 arrivals through the Phuket International Airport and 214,528 bookings made for accommodation on the island.
The most numerous arrivals have come from Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan and Germany.