Foreign tourist and City’s image takes a beating from Pattaya Baht Bus drivers
With tourism so crucial her in Pattaya, there are better ways to deal with obnoxious visitors than leaving them severely injured
Pattaya is world famous for its seaside beauty and other attractions, but it’s also notorious for other reasons, and not just the sex industry and the profusion of foreign crime syndicates. Further tainting its reputation are the local transportation providers ripping off Thais and foreign visitors alike – and worse.
Most recently, a group of songthaew drivers beat up a South Korean tourist, reportedly after an argument over the passenger seating arrangement. The tourist was left lying on the pavement waiting for an ambulance.
Bar brawls are not uncommon anywhere alcohol is served, but when the beating is inflicted by a songthaew driver whose livelihood depends on foreign tourists, one has to ask what is really going on. Of course there are always visitors who behave rudely, offending local people. We often see a lack of sensitivity towards Thai culture and mores. Violence is hardly the appropriate response, however.
Signs in English and other foreign languages have been erected, advisory campaigns mounted online, but it would be unrealistic to believe these might solve the problem. Rather, we need everyone to show sensitivity, even amid displays of insensitivity. People working in the hospitality industry – the country’s biggest income-earner – can lead the way. All Thais should follow. Because of Thailand’s reliance on tourism revenues, it is of the utmost importance that we uphold the country’s reputation overseas.
There was no excuse for those songthaew drivers to attack the Korean. It is their responsibility to keep their clients safe. If a passenger causes trouble, he can be evicted or refused service, but not driven somewhere and given a thrashing.
Most foreign visitors praise Thailand as the warm and friendly “land of smiles”, but the tourism industry clearly has a lot of cleaning-up to do. The practice of double-pricing, by which foreigners are charged substantially higher admission fees at places of interest than are Thais, draws frequent complaints. It’s an archaic practice that smacks of racism and it should not be allowed.
The argument that the same policy applies in other countries doesn’t wash. Foreign students attending university in the United States, for example, end up paying more only because they must purchase health insurance and additional fees for student visas. Tuition fees might vary from state to state based on residency, but only because state taxes fund the universities.
The policy as applied in Thailand seems entirely based on the belief that all foreigners are wealthier than the average Thai and can easily pay more. This is often true – and often untrue. Thais need only ask themselves how they would feel if they encountered double-pricing abroad.
Pattaya’s evolution continues. It has had great success in tidying its beaches, and the monopolies on the rental of beach huts and chairs have been largely expunged. Next, the city needs to address the problems associated with public transportation. Quite apart from getting drivers to be more tolerant, there’s the issue of who controls the operations. Taxi drivers who take passengers from Bangkok to Pattaya know they can’t attempt to pick up a return fair without informing the local “mafia” that runs the operation there. All such queues – taxis, motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks – are run according to their own laws, not the laws of the land.
Tourists might feel a lot safer in Thailand – and millions more would go there – if such problems could be resolved.