The Island of Phuket is one of Southeast Asia's premier vacation spots, with an average of over 3 million visitors each year. Tourists come to Phuket to enjoy the exotic tropical beaches, the authentic Thai cuisine, and the beautiful weather. Over the years Phuket has transformed from a quiet little Island resort town catering to a small amount of backpackers and sex tourists, to a world renowned travel destination. The enormous growth in the local tourism industry has resulted in a big business, with millions of tourist dollars up for grabs.
The Island has been growing at an amazing rate, with new exclusive 5 star resorts and enormous mega shopping centers popping up all over the place. The only thing that seems to be holding Phuket back is the lack of affordable transportation, and the constant reports of violence and corruption affecting tourists. Many tourists are now wondering if Phuket is a safe place to travel to, especially those who are traveling with their family. I wouldn't go as far as to say that people should be afraid to visit Phuket, however I think that people need to be aware of the dangers. The fact is that with all the money at stake, the government and local media often do their best to downplay, or even cover up incidents involving violence against tourists.
Corruption And Violence In Phuket
Many of the high profile incidents of violence against foreigners are associated with tuk tuk drivers. The local taxi mafia is ruthless in Phuket, disputes over fares often result in violent beatings, with dozens of taxi drivers beating on 1 or 2 tourists. There have also been several reports of female tourists being raped by drivers when they have taken a taxi back to their hotel after a night out in Patong Beach. The police are well aware of these incidents yet they seem to do nothing about it.
Another well documented problem in Phuket is the legendary "jet-ski scam". This involves rental jet-skis that somehow sustain mysterious damage after a short rental, then hundreds or thousands of dollars are demanded as compensation. Often the police will work with the jet-ski operators to extort money from tourists. The problem has attracted so much attention that the Australian Department Of Foreign Affairs has recently produced a video warning travellers about Phuket's jet-ski scams.
There are also serious concerns about the amount of mysterious deaths that are reported in Phuket, it seems that at least once per week there is a report of some bizarre suicide or accidental death. Nobody knows for sure how many murders are covered up and made to look like accidents, but most residents believe it is common practice. These type of crimes are more often involving expats, however in some cases robbery is the suspected motive.
The Local Media
The Phuket Gazette is the main source of news for tourists and expats on the Island of Phuket. Newspapers in Thailand do not enjoy the same freedom of press that the western media does, so it is well known that the facts tend to suffer in order to keep the authorities happy. Over the years the Phuket Gazette has proven to be a poor source of information, often printing stories without making any attempt to verify facts. In many cases they print the wrong names, the wrong nationality, and the facts tend to get so distorted that it might as well be fiction. The Phuket Gazette relies heavily on the income generated by advertising by property developers and large hotel groups, and this might explain their motive to cover up what is really happening in Phuket.
Phuketwan.com is a much better source of information, in some cases they have showed that they are not afraid to rock the boat, and they will "tell it like it is". Unfortunately they are not immune to censorship either, in January of 2011, they reported a murder, quoting several police statements that detailed how the killing took place, and how the police were hunting for the suspected killers. A few days later they were forced to print an apology, and changed their story to conform to the official police statement of "accidental death".
There are plenty of smaller websites and blogs, and most of these will also be motivated to portray Phuket as 'safer than it actually is". These people that publish information about Phuket are usually making commission from hotel bookings, tour bookings, dive charters or fishing trips. They don't want to scare anyone, they want everyone to be happy and relax, and spend some money. Don't let these bloggers fool you! One of the worst offenders is Jamie Monk, who publishes a popular blog about Phuket, he will tell everyone that listens "Phuket is safe, what are you worried about?". That is an ignorant thing to tell people that have never traveled to Thailand.
The reality is that Phuket is a dangerous place, and unless you are aware of the potential dangers then you could be at serious risk. Anyone that tells you that there is nothing to worry about is doing you a huge disservice. You can have a safe holiday in Phuket if you avoid tuk tuks and jet-skis, and be careful when you go out at night. Most of the people that end up getting in trouble in Thailand have put themselves in a bad situation because they have been careless. Most likely they didn't realize the risks, perhaps they had spoken to somebody like Jamie Monk, and when he told them "Phuket is safe, what are you worried about?", they decided to let their guard down. Don't make that same mistake!
The purpose of this article is NOT to scare people or discourage them from traveling to Phuket. The goal is simply to educate people of the risks of traveling to Phuket, as well as the rest of Thailand, so they can take precautions and avoid becoming another victim. If you are aware of the risks, and you take steps to avoid putting yourself in a vulnerable position, you will likely have a wonderful holiday in Phuket. You can also avoid a lot of hassle by staying out of Patong Beach, and choosing to stay in Kata-Karon, or Rawai - Nai Harn.
List Of Crimes Involving Foreigners May - Aug, 2011
Expat Arrests on Phuket Since May
Mr Guiliermo Eliseo Chile May 17 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Pavel Russia May 12 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Verma India May 19 no visa permit Phuket Airport
Mr Tillu India May 19 no visa permit Phuket Airport
Mr Johan Sweden May 25 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Simon Britain May 23 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Henrik Norway June 6 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Phillip New Zealand June 7 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Steffen Germany June 15 possession of marijuana Patong
Mr Abdullah Kuwait June 22 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Naser Kuwait June 29 assault Patong
Mr Bader Kuwait June 29 assault Patong
Mr Faleh Kuwait June 29 assault Patong
Miss Mitra Iran July 4 fake passport Phuket airport
Mr Mohammad Iran July 4 fake passport Phuket airport
Mr Werner Austria May 24 (surrender July 5) trespassing Cherng Talay
Mr Eric Seigneurin France February 7 (surrender July 5) assault Cherng Talay
Mr Jin Woo Lee Korea July 8 visa overstay Phuket City
Mr Stacey Charles Britain July 19 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Scott Norris Australia July 21 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Chris Mathiasen Denmark July 26 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Heinz Willi Germany July 29 (arrested at Bangkok airport for murder, April 2009) Kamala
Mr Edward Patrick Sweden July 31 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Cztl Mikael Arab Emirates July 28 assault Patong
Mr Khalfan Butti Arab Emirates July 28 assault Patong
Mr Tommy Victor Sweden August 1 murder Phuket City
Mr Johan Sebastian Sweden August 1 murder Phuket City
Mr Paul John Britain August 1 drinking and driving Patong
Mr Thomas Spanknobel German August 9 possession of ya ice Patong
Mr Christian Zitz Austria August 9 possession of marijuana Patong
Mr Gennady Yanushkevich Russia August 13 theft at Central Festival Phuket City
Mr Earl Edgarsouza India August 12 theft at Phuket Airport
Mr Donald Karl Holton America August 27 visa overstay Cherng Talay
Expat Victims on Phuket Since May
Mr Fabrice Ferdinand Tassous France April 28 fraud victim Patong
Mr Armando Enrique Segura Australia April 30 assault victim Patong
Ms XXXX Britain June 11 rape victim Patong
Mr David Edwin Atkin June 24 theft Patong
Ms XXXX Britain June 28 rape victim Patong
Mr Muhammad Sajjad Pakistan July 19 asault victim Patong
Mr Peter Werner Germany April 21 stealing Patong
Mrs Therese Mary Australia August 10 assault Patong
Mr Brian Leslie Australia August 10 assault Patong
XXXX France August 17 rape victim Patong
TravelinAsia (author) from Thailand/Southeast Asia on November 21, 2011:
I have heard that rip offs are more common in North Vietnam, I have spent plenty of time in Saigon and the south .. and never had any problems. Overall I find Vietnam to be quite pleasant ..
ValL from UK on November 21, 2011:
I think anyone traveling to South East Asia has to exercise common sense. I was there for 6 months a few years ago, going to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, Phillipines and Malaysia and you have to be careful and street smart everywhere you go - but do go! It is so worth it. In terms of scams, the worst was in Vietnam so travelers to that country should try to avoid the most touristy areas. I'd say a big concern is motorbike accidents - be safe, wear a helmet and rent from someone reputable. Enjoy!
Megan Coxe from somewhere between here and there on September 19, 2011:
Interesting hub. I can't say I know much about Thailand, but am planning on traveling there eventually. It's nice to here a side that isn't emphasized much.
Sawasdee-Kub from Thailand on September 11, 2011:
According to crime record, Phuket is A LOT safer than Bangkok.
TravelinAsia (author) from Thailand/Southeast Asia on September 05, 2011:
Thai Women Advice,
thank you for commenting, spoken like a true veteran.
Thai Women Advice from THAILAND on September 05, 2011:
Not much of what you have written will come as any surprise to anyone who has travelled widely in Thailand.All Thai's beleive that every Falang (Westerner)is Rich!! The aforementioned fact colours all dealings Thai's have with Falang.
Thai's being amongst the most aquisitive people on Earth view Falang with a mixture of Amusement,Disdain/Dislike and above all Opportunity.If there is a possibility for extracting cash from a Falang a Thai will have thought of it.
Thailand is a violent Country,although not on open display as in the Philippines many Thai "Low Lifes" carry Guns.
The biggest mistake that anyone can make is to think that the Smiley Thai who overcharged or cheated him is going to behave reasonably when confronted.
It is when these confrontations occur that the Westerner becomes deeply vulnerable!!By accusing the Thai (rightly or wrongly) you are making him loose face!!Bear in mind that Thai's see absolutely nothing wrong in overcharging Falang!!
Do not expect help from the Thai Tourist Police (they are Mind Bogglingly Corrupt)and will inevitably take the part of the Thai in any dispute!!!
It is the sad reality that in the Tourist destinations of Today's Thailand one has to behave as if one were in Vietnam or Cambodia,places where a Ladyboy will Mug you for your camera in the blink of an Eye!!!
TravelinAsia (author) from Thailand/Southeast Asia on September 03, 2011:
@Jamie, A.K.A concerned potential visitor.
I do not read Jamie's blog, I only see his posts on facebook, on the "Phuket" or "Thailand" pages. I have noticed that Jamie focuses on ONLY the positive aspects of local tourism in Phuket, which is fine..
Jamie seems to have a personal problem with anyone else who tries to tell the other side of the story. When I published my "personal account of the 2004 Tsunami", he scolded me for bringing up the past, and focusing on negativity.
I believe Jamie has financial interest in representing Phuket as a "safe" tourist destination. However I think Jamie, and everyone else in his business have a moral responsibility to be honest with people about the dangers of traveling to Phuket.
I don't believe Jamie is 100% honest about this subject, I have seen him be very critical of people who will discuss controversial issues. Recently a tourist asked the question "Is Phuket Safe?", Jamie replied by saying "what exactly are you scared of?"
Jamie is well aware of the dangers of traveling to Phuket, If he feels that he needs to comment on the issue, I would prefer if he didn't screw around and simply gave an honest answer.
A concerned potential visitor on September 03, 2011:
Jamie Monk, who publishes a popular blog about Phuket, he will tell everyone that listens "Phuket is safe, what are you worried about?".
Where does he say this?
Prisana Nuechterlein from Thailand and Colorado on September 03, 2011:
I have to agree that the taxi mafia is horrific in Phuket, but I would never describe Phuket as a dangerous holiday destination. I would advise visitors to rent a car v.s. dealing with the taxi mafia and definitely book your hotel in Kata or Karon, rather than in Patong.
TravelinAsia (author) from Thailand/Southeast Asia on September 03, 2011:
Yeah, well I would tend to agree with you, overall Chiang Mai is much safer. However there is still the issue of the unexplained deaths last year : https://hubpages.com/politics/downtown-inn
sortapundit from Copenhagen on September 03, 2011:
I'm glad I live at the sane end of Thailand.