Europeans urge tourist safety moves on Thai island

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — European ambassadors on Friday urged authorities on a Thai resort island work to ensure foreign tourists are safe from crime, corruption and dangerous road and swimming conditions.

A statement issued on behalf of European Union countries said the embassies suggested several measures to be taken on the southern island of Phuket, which had about 4.8 million visitors last year, a little more than half of them foreigners.

The statement posted on the British Embassy's Facebook page said, "Tourists need to feel safe and that they are being treated fairly." It noted that European diplomats and provincial governor Maitri Inthusut met last week to discuss the problems.

They suggested curbing violence and intimidation by taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, enforcing ethical behavior by police and immigration officials whose jobs put them in a position to extort money and ensuring physical safety on roads and at beaches.

It said the embassies "are keen to see... strict enforcement of marine safety standards, including flags on beaches to indicate when it is safe to swim."

Problems involving tourists are reported frequently.

The Phuketwan.com website reported Thursday that an airport security guard confessed to stealing 900 Australian dollars from the luggage of a departing tourist. Police confirmed the drownings of a Belgian and a Russian, and Phuketwan reported that two Chinese tourists died in the sea earlier in the week, one struck by a boat propeller.

The statement also called for "an end to scams involving hiring of equipment such as jet skis or motorbikes," referring to an abuse that has been exposed in Western media for several years. These involve false claims made by owners of sports equipment and vehicles that the renters caused damage and must pay extortionate amounts for repair.

"European Union embassies in Bangkok believe that these concerns are shared widely among the diplomatic and wider international community in Thailand," the statement said, adding that E.U. embassies "will continue to maintain a dialogue with the relevant national authorities such as the Ministry of Tourism, as well as ensuring through their travel advice that their citizens have accurate information and advice available to them."

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