The Thai government has decided to deploy Chinese police in major tourist cities. The move aims to reassure Chinese tourists and attract more visitors. Tourism accounts for 20% of Thailand’s GDP.
Chinese tourists make up the largest proportion of foreign visitors. Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, of the approximately 40 million foreign tourists, 11 million were from China. They accounted for more than 25% of all foreign tourists.
According to the 2023 First Half Overseas Travel Big Data Report released by the China Cultural Tourism Industry Research Institute, Chinese people visited Thailand the most after Macau and Hong Kong. Currently, Thailand is actively working to attract Chinese tourists to revive its tourism industry.
On the 13th, Tappani Kijatpaiyapun, the head of the Thai Tourism Authority, said in a press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Seta Tawisin, “We have decided to involve Chinese police in patrolling major tourist cities.” Officials made this announcement immediately after a meeting to discuss measures to alleviate concerns about the safety of foreign tourists visiting Thailand and provide better services.
Tappani, the head of the tourism authority, said, “Deploying Chinese police is necessary to demonstrate to Chinese tourists that Thailand is enhancing its safety measures.” He added, “If their own police confirm that Thailand is safe, the trust of Chinese tourists will increase.”
Authorities made this decision in response to an indiscriminate shooting by a 14-year-old boy at the Siam Paragon shopping mall in downtown Bangkok on the 4th of last month. At that time, one Chinese tourist died. This incident led to a slowdown in the influx of Chinese tourists to Thailand.
The government has announced that it will actively support the deployment of Chinese police to reactivate the influx of Chinese tourists. On the 15th, there is a plan to discuss the dispatch of Chinese police with the Chinese Embassy in Thailand.
The news of the deployment of Chinese police in Thailand has led to a backlash among Thais. There are voices concerned that it could ignite a sovereignty infringement. In response, the government stated, “The deployment of Chinese police is an idea proposed by Thai police and has nothing to do with sovereignty infringement.” They added, “The content that Chinese police will patrol tourist spots with Thai police is a misunderstanding. Chinese tourists visiting Thailand are afraid of becoming targets of their country’s criminals. Chinese police are expected to provide information and support in handling Chinese criminal cases in Thailand.”
The government once again emphasized that deploying Chinese police is solely for safety. Locals responded with comments such as, “If it’s just for patrol, I don’t understand why we need to bring in police from another country. What is the role of Thai police?” “Why are Chinese police patrolling in Thai territory?” and “I’m worried that Thailand will become a secret operation base targeting overseas Chinese dissidents.”
The head of the Royal Thai Police expressed concern over allowing the deployment of Chinese police in Thailand. He stated that it is an act that infringes on Thailand’s sovereignty. Also, the Thai police have sufficient capacity to protect citizens and tourists. However, other government officials showed a positive stance on deploying Chinese police.
China has also conducted joint patrols with local police in Italy. In 2015, the Italian government signed an agreement on joint patrols with the Chinese authorities. From May 2016 to 2019, they conducted joint patrols in major tourist spots crowded with Chinese tourists.
The Italian government launched a two-week trial of joint patrols with Chinese police to ensure the safety of and support the annual 3 million Chinese tourists in emergencies. China dispatched four police officers to Rome and Milan. Chinese police provided convenience in interactions between Chinese tourists and Italian police. In 2018 and 2019, ten Chinese police officers conducted joint patrols with Italian police for three weeks.
Italian police also conducted joint patrols in Shanghai and Chongqing, China. The joint patrol was suspended when COVID-19 broke out in early 2020.
In December 2022, Italy announced that it would end the joint patrols with Chinese police conducted since 2016. They ended the joint patrols after allegations were raised that they were linked to the establishment of a secret police station by Chinese police in Italy. Safeguard Defenders released a report stating that the Chinese authorities have secretly established and operated a total of 54 police stations in 31 countries around the world without the approval of the host country.
By. Seo Sung Min