This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in
Bangkok, Thailand. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Thailand.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Thailand page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s
publication assesses Thailand at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise
normal precautions. Reconsider travel to Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla
provinces due to civil unrest. Review
OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel
Overall Crime and
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Bangkok as being a LOW-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Most criminal activity is limited to non-confrontational street crime and crime
of opportunity, including purse snatching, pickpocketing, petty theft, jewelry
schemes, and tourism fraud. Many travelers have had passports, wallets, and
other valuables stolen in Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market, on Khao San Road,
and at other crowded areas. Pickpockets and thieves often cut into purses and
bags with a razor to remove items surreptitiously. There have been incidents
involving drive-by snatch-and-grab robberies from thieves on motorcycles.
Travelers on long-distance bus routes may be susceptible to theft as well.
Violent crime (e.g. murder, rape,
and assault) targeting foreigners is relatively rare. When it does occur, such
crime typically happens at night, often when victims have been drinking or
separated from their companions. These crimes are most common in Bangkok,
Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and in tourist areas in southern Thailand, including
Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Krabi.
Sexually motivated violence is
most likely to occur at, or after attending, nightclubs, discos, or beach
parties (e.g., the Full Moon Party on Pha Ngan Island). There have been reports
of criminals using scopolamine or other date rape drugs to spike drinks and sexually
assault and/or rob their victims. U.S. citizens have reported robberies after
soliciting commercial sex workers.
There are numerous international
and indigenous organized crime elements present in Thailand, primarily
concentrated in major cities. Their activities include drug trafficking, human
trafficking, prostitution, document fraud, and counterfeiting. The Embassy is
unaware of any U.S. private-sector organizations that have experienced problems
directly associated with organized crime.
The safety and security of guest
rooms in quality hotels is adequate. There have been isolated instances of
domestic workers stealing cash or other valuables from their employers in
The risk of credit/debit card
fraud and identity fraud is relatively high. There have been instances in which
international criminal organizations based in Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, and
elsewhere have installed sophisticated skimming devices on ATMs in order to
steal cardholder information and subsequently withdraw money from accounts.
OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind,
The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers &
Fraud, Taking Credit, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Paved roads, many of them four lanes
wide, connect Thailand's major cities. On the country's numerous two-lane
roads, however, slow-moving trucks limit speed and visibility. Speeding,
reckless passing, and failure to obey traffic laws are common, as is the
consumption of alcohol, amphetamines, and other stimulants by drivers. The
World Health Organization ranks road safety in Thailand among the worst in the
Traffic moves on the left,
although motorcycles and motorized carts often drive (illegally) against the flow
of traffic and use sidewalks to bypass traffic congestion. Traffic includes
many three-wheeled tuk-tuks.
Accidents involving pedestrians
and vehicles are the greatest safety concern for visitors. Serious bus crashes
occur frequently, especially on overnight routes, sometimes resulting in
fatalities. Motorcycle drivers have limited proficiency, seldom wear helmets,
and tend to weave in and out of traffic. As a result, most accidents involve
motorcycles; motorcycle-related deaths in Bangkok are a daily occurrence. The
accident rate is particularly high at night and during long holidays, when
alcohol use increases and traffic is heavier than normal. During the annual
Songkran (Thai New Year) holiday in April, the problem compounds as people
throw water at passing vehicles as part of the traditional celebration. Congested
roads and the scarcity of ambulances can make it difficult for accident victims
to receive timely medical attention.
It is customary in a traffic
accident for the more affluent driver to pay the expenses of the other party,
regardless of who is at fault. Authorities determine fault in major accidents
and typically bring those involved to the local police station. Senior officers
will discuss the accident with drivers, insurance representatives, police, and
others to determine fault.
OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State
Department’s webpage on driving and road safety
Pedestrians should use elevated
walkways and pedestrian bridges whenever possible, especially in metropolitan
Bangkok. Pedestrians should look in both directions before crossing streets,
even when using a marked crosswalk with a green walk light.
Public Transportation Conditions
Buses and taxis are abundant and
generally safe. Streets tend to be very congested. Taxi passengers should only
exit on the sidewalk-side of the street to avoid opening a door into oncoming traffic.
Registered taxicab drivers should
have a yellow placard with their name written in Latin script and their photograph
on the dashboard. If the photograph does not match that of the driver, be wary
of entering the vehicle. Taxis have meters, and their drivers typically use
them, but taxis in some tourist areas may not have meters. Taxi drivers often
refuse fares, especially during rush hour or to places they do not know well.
In tourist areas, taxi drivers
routinely charge fares much higher than those in Bangkok do for comparable
distances. Before entering a for-hire vehicle, request that the driver use the
meter or reach an agreement on the fare for the trip. Threats of violence may
accompany fare disputes. Drivers could interpret the raising of one’s voice and
use of aggressive body language as a threat; tourists have received serious
injuries during confrontations with taxi and tuk-tuk drivers. Police will seldom intervene in disputes involving
taxi drivers. Local government officials have attempted to introduce standard
fares with limited success. Drivers have organized against attempts to provide
alternative services. For instance, drivers have blockaded van and bus services
during some U.S. Navy ship visits.
Avoid the use of motorcycle taxis.
The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that Embassy staff and family members
refrain from using motorcycles (especially motorcycle taxis) and mopeds in
The elevated BTS Skytrain and
underground MRT subway are generally safe and clean. Both save time and
mitigate the challenge of navigating Bangkok's notorious traffic conditions.
OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes,
Public Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed in 2015 and again in 2019 that the Civil Aviation Authority of
Thailand (CAAT) was not compliant with International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Thailand’s air
Other Travel Conditions
Ferries and speedboats to and from
Thailand’s many islands are often overcrowded and may lack sufficient safety
equipment. Ensure that proper safety equipment is available before boarding and
avoid travel on overcrowded boats.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Bangkok as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. Defer non-emergency travel to Thailand's southernmost provinces. The
far south provinces of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat frequently
experience criminally and politically motivated violence in the form of
drive-by shootings, ambushes, and small bomb attacks. These incidents involve
local armed insurgent groups that have sought increased autonomy for a century,
and ultimately aspire to a separate state.
The latest round of violence began
in 2004. Incidents have included arson attacks directed at schools and
buildings associated with the government; bombings in public areas and near
local government offices; the killing of police officers and other officials,
including civilians suspected of cooperating with authorities; and the theft of
weapons and explosives. Attacks have increasingly targeted commercial areas where
foreigners might congregate. Authorities have instituted special security
measures, such as curfews, military patrols, and random searches of train
passengers in the affected areas. The U.S. Embassy requires advance review and
approval for all employee travel to far southern regions. Those wishing to
travel to border areas should check with Thai Tourist Police and review the
most up-to-date travel advisories.
Thailand has also experienced
limited violent incursions along the Burma and Cambodia borders. Heavily armed
drug smugglers have had deadly clashes with police near the border with Burma.
Transnational terrorist elements,
which visit and transit Thailand with relative ease, could easily exploit soft-target
vulnerabilities. There is a higher risk of attack associated with places where U.S.
citizens and other foreigners congregate, including clubs, restaurants,
residential areas, places of worship, hotels, schools, business offices,
outdoor recreational events, resorts, and beaches.
In 2015, a deadly explosion in the
central commercial district of Bangkok killed at least 20 people and injured
more than 100 others. Two other 2015 incidents occurred in areas popular among
tourists, injuring two people. In 2016, bombings occurred at/near tourist
locations in several southern provinces, resulting in at least four deaths and
more than 20 injuries. More recently, in August 2019, a series of small
explosive devices detonated throughout the Bangkok metropolitan area, resulting
in only minor injuries.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Bangkok as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
government interests. In 2019, Thailand returned to an elected government after
five years of military rule under the National Council for Peace and Order
(NCPO). As part of the return to elected government, the government lifted many
NCPO-era restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, opening the door to
peaceful public protest for the first time in five years.
U.S. citizens may encounter a heightened
security presence in the provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and parts of
Songkhla, which remain under martial law. Security forces in these areas have
additional powers, including the right to control movement and search for
weapons. Stay alert, exercise caution, and monitor international and Thai
media. Follow any instructions or restrictions issued by local authorities.
Political demonstrations often
occur on the anniversary of political events; others happen with little or no advanced
notice. Demonstrations can attract thousands of participants and cause severe
traffic disruptions, especially if they involve processions from one site to
another. Avoid protest events, demonstrations, large gatherings, and security
operations. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest
Bangkok has a small, active Muslim
population. There have been no mass anti-U.S. demonstrations from Thailand’s
local Muslim community commensurate with those that have occurred elsewhere
around the world.
Thailand is located along several
earthquake fault lines. Small earthquakes occur throughout the region, most of
which cause little to no damage. In 2004, an underwater earthquake off the
coast of northern Indonesia caused one of the deadliest tsunamis in recorded
history. More than 200,000 people died, including thousands in Thailand.
Thailand experiences serious
flooding during the rainy season (June-October). Flooding can last several
weeks, severely disrupting daily operations, such as traffic flow and the availability
The air quality in Khon Kaen,
Chiang Mai, Nan, Lampang, Bangkok, and Samut Sakhon have historically exceeded
Thai government standards for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) for a portion of
the year. Annual agricultural burning, which generally occurs in February and
March, can lead to poor air quality. In Bangkok, metropolitan air pollution
accumulates in stagnant air commonly associated with weather patterns during
the dry season (approximately December through February), which has little wind
U.S. Mission Thailand reports the
U.S. EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) for Bangkok and Chiang Mai, calculated using
hourly air pollution data from monitors owned and maintained by the Royal Thai
government. The U.S. EPA AQI and additional details are available on the Embassy’s
website. This AQI reporting can help U.S. citizens in Bangkok make
health-related decisions based on air quality. Thailand’s reported AQI is
comprised of multiple pollutants, but does not directly correspond to the U.S.
EPA AQI used by and familiar to U.S. citizens.
In Bangkok, the Metropolitan
Waterworks Authority certifies the drinking water as potable. However, many
residents do not consume municipal tap water due to concerns over possible
contamination from leaky or old pipes. Review OSAC’s Report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?
In recent years, Thailand has
enacted several statutes intended to curb issues regarding intellectual
property rights (IPR). Thailand protects IPR under several statutes, including
the Patent Act B.E. 2522 (1979), Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994), Trademark Act
B.E. 2534 (1991), Protection of Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits Act, B.E.
2543 (2000), Trade Secret Act B.E. 2545 (2002), Protection of Geographical
Indications Act B.E. 2546 (2003) and Plant Varieties Protection Act B.E. 2542
(1999). Private enforcement options are available to aggrieved parties.
The Patent Act grants an
inventor/designer exclusive rights over their invention/design. Applicable
patents must satisfy three conditions:
1. The invention must be new. It must not
exist in another country.
2. The idea must involve an inventive
step. This inventive step cannot be an application obvious to one who works in
3. The invention or design must have an
Excluded from patent protection
are naturally occurring organisms, scientific methods, and mathematical
equations. Legal action may be criminal or civil. Law enforcement agencies may
conduct criminal proceedings to include raids and seizures of property. The
provisions under specific IPR statutes and tort provisions under the Civil and
Commercial Code typically govern civil proceedings. In 2017, the Royal Thai
Police conducted more than 60 patent case investigations.
The Copyright Act protects the
creator of an original artistic/cultural work. The copyrighted work must be an
original work. The protection vests once the work is created. The creator
retains the copyright except in the following situations:
1. If the creator is an employee hired to
create the work, in which case the employer retains the copyright via prior
2. If the work is a commissioned piece,
in which case the commissioner retains the copyright via prior agreement.
In addition to monies recovered in
civil suits, copyright holders may receive 50% of fines levied in criminal
enforcement. (Find further information in Results
of Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Thailand
Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets.)
The Trademark Act differs somewhat
from the other statutes. A trademark must be distinctive, not prohibited by the
act, and not be identical or confusingly similar to a registered trademark.
Aggrieved parties may pursue criminal and civil enforcement action. Thai law
views trademark infringement as a crime against the state; either Thailand’s
enforcement agencies or the trademark owners can initiate criminal proceedings.
Most areas considered tourist
zones are under constant video surveillance, managed by the Royal Thai Police
(RTP). Cameras record images to computers at a central Police Center, and RTP
may use footage to investigate crimes. Many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs
have video surveillance, and will often present footage as evidence when
pursuing criminal charges against clientele. At crime scenes, RTP often take
photographs of ID documents and crime scenes and share them – without regards
to personally identifiable information – with other government officials and
non-government personnel via social media communication platforms and
Personal Identity Concerns
Many sidewalks and street
crossings are not suitable for disabled travelers. Newly constructed buildings,
facilities, and transportation equipment should be accessible for persons with
disabilities. However, enforcement of these provisions is not uniform.
LGBTI advocacy groups have
reported that police tend to downplay sexual abuse claims from LGBTI victims.
The UN and NGOs have reported that LGBTI persons experience discrimination,
particularly in rural areas. The UN also reported that local media might have
represented LGBTI persons in stereotypical and harmful ways that resulted in
discrimination. Transgender individuals face discrimination in various sectors,
including in the military conscription process, while in detention, and in
schools, where strict policies require students to wear uniforms that align
with their biological gender; if students do not follow school uniform rules,
schools may deny graduation documents and/or dock grades.
the State Department’s webpages on security for female
travelers, LGBTI+ travelers, and
travelers with disabilities.
OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and
the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
Drug use, particularly the
increasing use of methamphetamine and intravenous drugs, continues to be a
problem in Thailand. Thailand strictly enforces drug laws and penalties for the
possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs. Convicted offenders can expect
heavy fines and long prison sentences under harsh conditions. Thailand's
enforcement efforts include the death penalty for drug smuggling. Authorities
have arrested several U.S. citizens for trafficking or using illicit drugs. Traffickers
have duped some U.S. citizens into carrying a package with illegal drugs by the
promise of a vacation to Thailand. Lack of knowledge of the contents of a
package is not a valid legal defense.
Thai police occasionally raid
discos, bars, or nightclubs looking for underage patrons and drug users. Police
typically check the IDs of all customers and make each person provide a urine
sample for narcotics. Foreigners are not immune from these checks; police will
arrest and charge anyone who tests positive for illicit drugs. Although some
civil libertarians have questioned the constitutionality of these forced tests,
the Embassy and Consulate are not aware of any successful challenges to the
practice; authorities can jail patrons who do not cooperate.
Thai authorities continue to fight
drug smuggling along the country’s borders with Burma, Cambodia, and Laos.
Heavily armed drug smugglers have engaged in deadly clashes with Thai Border
and Narcotics Police in these areas.
Authorities may detain individuals,
including foreigners, for publicly criticizing the ruling government or the
monarchy. Thais hold the monarchy in the highest regard. Making a critical or
defamatory comment about the royal family is punishable by a prison sentence of
up to 15 years per offense. As an example, authorities consider purposely
tearing Thai bank notes, which carry an image of the King, a lèse majesté (or royal insult) offense. Review OSAC’s report, Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad.
Although U.S. citizen tourists
entering Thailand for fewer than 30 days do not require a visa, business
travelers, U.S. government employees traveling on official business, teachers,
retirees, and those planning to stay longer than 30 days should check with
Embassy about visa requirements. Overstaying a visa will result in
fines. Depending on the length of overstay, it may also result in arrest, detention,
deportation at your own expense, and a ban from re-entering Thailand.
Police response is generally
better in larger cities than in smaller towns and provinces. A lack of funding,
inadequate training, and corruption hamper police effectiveness and the ability
to conduct follow-up criminal investigations, as do frequent rotations that
prevent them from operating with the effectiveness or professionalism one
typically associates with a modern police force.
Police officers outside major
tourist destinations frequently do not speak English. Tourist Police, stationed
in popular tourist areas, generally speak English, and many English-speaking
volunteers in Bangkok assist the Tourist Police with translation. Tourist
Police are generally helpful in assisting tourists. Several Tourist Courts deal
with petty crime and complaints involving foreigners.
In the event of police detention
or harassment, remain calm and ask for an English-speaking officer. Since
Thailand is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the
U.S. Embassy and Consulate may not learn of the arrest of U.S. citizens until
several days after the incident. U.S. citizens detained or arrested in northern
Thailand should ask authorities to contact the American
Citizen Services (ACS) section at the U.S. Embassy in
Bangkok or Consulate in Chiang Mai. Consular officers can help arrested U.S.
citizens understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney (if
The police emergency link in
Thailand is 191;
few operators speak English. Reach the tourist police at 1155; this line is generally
bilingual or accompanied by bilingual auxiliaries. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims
Police (routine): 02-280-5060; Fire/Emergency: 199
Police (routine): 07-621-2115
Travelers involved in a traffic
accident, altercation, or other situation that draws a crowd, should leave the immediate
area and contact the police.
Some victims of sexually motivated
crimes have found that authorities do not handle their cases with as much
sensitivity or consideration for privacy as they would expect in the U.S.
has several Tourist Courts to deal with petty crime and complaints involving
The Royal Thai Police and the
Department of Special Investigations actively investigate organized crime
syndicates, but due to corruption, resource limitations, and bureaucratic
inefficiency, arrest rates are extremely low; prosecution rates are even lower.
Medical treatment is generally
adequate in Thailand’s urban areas. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya, good
facilities exist for routine, long-term, and emergency health care. Basic
medical care is available in rural areas, but English-speaking providers may be
In the event of a medical
emergency in Bangkok, ambulances often arrive delayed due to severe traffic
congestion. Drivers rarely yield to emergency vehicles traveling with lights
and sirens. Consider using taxis to transport patients to hospitals.
Reach the BDMS emergency response
center, a service provided by a group of private hospitals (i.e. Bangkok
Hospital, BNH Hospital, and Samitivej Hospital) from anywhere in Thailand by
calling 1724. The BDMS
response team has English-speaking operators, doctors, and nurses available
24/7. If necessary, this call center will locate the caller via GPS signal from
their mobile phone and send the nearest ambulance to retrieve the patient.
Bumrungrad Hospital, a very large
hospital in Bangkok not in the BDMS, has an emergency center/ambulance service
you can reach at 02 011 5222.
Helicopter Medevac service is
available through Bangkok Hospital BDMS Emergency Response Center. Call 1724
for assistance throughout Thailand.
Find contact information for available
medical services and available air ambulance services on the US Embassy’s Medical
Ensure your health insurance plan
provides coverage overseas. Most international care providers only accept
up-front payments. Strongly consider supplemental
insurance to cover medical evacuation (medevac). The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.
The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Thailand.
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health
101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire
OSAC Country Council
The Thailand OSAC Country Council
and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) are located in Bangkok. Interested
private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific team with
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
Embassy in Bangkok, 120 - 122 Wireless Road and 95 Wireless Road, Bangkok
Monday through Friday, 0700-1600 (except U.S. and Thai
Operator: +66 (02) 205-4000
Post One: +66 (02) 205-4108
Emergency calls after normal
business hours: +66 (02) 205-4000
Department Emergency Line: +1-202-501-4444
Before you travel, consider the following resources:
Thailand Country Information Sheet
OSAC Risk Matrix
OSAC Travelers Toolkit
State Department Traveler’s
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program