This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate General
in Chiang Mai, Thailand. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Northern 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 CHIANG MAI as being a LOW-threat
location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
The overall risk of crime is low, but non-violent crimes occur more frequently
than violent crimes. Petty theft, purse snatching, and pickpocketing are more
common in areas foreigners frequent, such as Chiang Mai’s Walking Street and
Violent crimes (e.g. murder, armed
robbery, and sexual assault) against foreigners are relatively rare. Many
thieves carry knives, and stabbings do occur. Violent crimes typically happen
at night, often when victims have been drinking or separate from their
companions. Besides Chiang Mai, these crimes are most common in Bangkok and
Pattaya, and in tourist areas in southern Thailand.
Sexually motivated violence is
most likely to occur at parties, bars, or clubs. On a few occasions, assailants
have altered drinks in order to incapacitate victims. U.S. citizens have also been
the victims of robbery after soliciting commercial sex workers.
In 2018, police arrested an Indonesian
woman for allegedly drugging and robbing two foreign tourists in Chiang Mai. Authorities
found one of the individuals dead in his hotel room; the other required
hospitalization. While this type of incident is relatively uncommon, it
underscores the risk associated with leaving drinks unattended or accepting
drinks from strangers.
Although relatively rare,
residential burglaries do occur in areas where Westerners live. In 2016, a
group of thieves burglarized more than 100 residences in over 25 neighborhoods
in/around Chiang Mai. Many of the residents were at home at the time of the
robbery. There were no reports of significant physical confrontation with
residents who were home; however, this rash of burglaries highlights the need to
lock doors and windows.
There have been isolated instances
of domestic staff stealing cash or valuables from their employers.
In general, the safety and
security of guest rooms in quality hotels is adequate.
There are numerous international
and indigenous organized crime elements operating throughout Thailand. The activities
of these groups, most of which are concentrated in major cities, include drug
trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution, and document fraud. The Consulate,
however, is not aware of any U.S. organizations experiencing problems
associated with organized crime.
Crimes involving credit/debit card
fraud and identity theft occur occasionally. International criminal organizations
based in Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere have installed sophisticated
skimming devices on ATMs in order to steal cardholder information. Fraudsters
later used that information to conduct illicit transactions and withdraw money
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
The road infrastructure in and around
Chiang Mai is adequate to good. Traffic moves on the left side, with mainly
right-side drive vehicles. Roads can be dangerous due to careless drivers. Visitors
who decide to drive personal vehicles should exercise extreme caution. Police
do not strictly enforce, and drivers widely ignore traffic laws. Traffic
hazards include drivers exceeding the speed limit, driving under the influence
of alcohol, running red lights, and moving against the flow of traffic
(especially on motorcycles). Other transportation safety concerns include rapid
or unexpected lane changes, heavily laden motorcycles and trucks, and underage
or unlicensed drivers.
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 of
Motorcycle and moped accidents are
common and serious, since the drivers of these vehicles generally have less
training than car or truck drivers. Most traffic fatalities involve
motorcycles. Local law requires wearing a helmet when riding on a motorcycle;
however, many riders continue to avoid helmets, despite random police checkpoints
The accident rate is particularly
high at night and during long holidays when alcohol use and traffic are 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
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
Congested roads and the scarcity
of ambulances can make it difficult for the victims of vehicle accidents 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; those involved typically
must go to the local police station. Senior officers will discuss the accident
with drivers, insurance representatives, police officers, and others to
Pedestrian safety is also a serious
security concern. Many areas lack sidewalks; pedestrians should not expect drivers
to yield the right of way, even in marked crosswalks. When crossing streets,
pedestrians should be cautious of vehicles running red lights or driving
Songthaews (pick-up trucks with two bench
seats affixed along either side of the bed) and tuk-tuks (three-wheeled taxis) are abundant and generally safe. Crime
involving taxis and or tuk-tuks occasionally occur, especially in tourist
areas. Songthaews and tuk-tuks typically do not have meters. Motorcycle taxis
are not common in Chiang Mai; avoid using them.
Tour buses are widely available
for transportation between large cities in northern Thailand, and are generally
safe and reliable.
There are a limited number of
metered taxis at the airport. Registered taxicab drivers must have a yellow
placard with their name in Latin script and their photograph on the dashboard. Be
wary of entering any vehicle where the photograph does not match the driver.
Police will seldom intervene in incidents involving taxi drivers.
Taxi drivers may attempt to charge
excessive fares at airports and near major tourist attractions. Reach an
agreement on the fare before entering a for-hire vehicle. Some taxis in Chiang
Mai have meters, but drivers may refuse to use them. Drivers will often refuse
fares, especially during rush hour or to places they do not know well. 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. Ask to exit
a vehicle if the driver is acting suspiciously or driving erratically.
Ride-sharing services operate in
Chiang Mai, though these services remain under government review. While travelers often use rideshare
services without incident, there have been isolated instances in which other
public transportation providers (e.g., taxi and tuk-tuk drivers) have reacted
negatively to lost fares. Travelers who find themselves in such situations should
not overreact; try to resolve the situation in a safe and expeditious manner.
Streets tend to be very congested,
especially in the downtown area around the moat. Exit vehicles toward the
sidewalk to avoid opening a door into an oncoming car or motorcycle.
OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes,
Public Transport, and Overnights.
Air travel remains a relatively
safe option. The last significant accident in Thailand occurred in 2007, when a
low-cost carrier crashed at Phuket International Airport (HKT) in southern
Thailand, killing 90 people, including five U.S. citizens; the carrier ceased
operations in 2010.
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
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Chiang Mai as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. The far south provinces of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat
frequently experience criminally and politically motivated violence, which
comes in the form of drive-by shootings, ambushes, and small bombings. These
incidents have historically not extended into Northern Thailand.
Transnational terrorist elements could
easily exploit soft-target vulnerabilities. Terrorists have visited and transited
Thailand with relative ease. Travelers should be aware of the higher risk of
attack associated with places where U.S. citizens and other foreigners
congregate, such as clubs, restaurants, residential areas, places of worship,
hotels, schools, business offices, outdoor recreational events, resorts, and beaches.
One such attack occurred in Bangkok in 2015, killing at least 20 people and injuring
more than 100 others.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Chiang Mai as a LOW-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
government interests. General elections occurred in March 2019. In the lead up
to the election, the government relaxed restrictions on political activities.
After the elections, the government is moving to dissolve some opposition
parties, including the Future Forward Party (FFP), which came in third in term
of number of ballots cast. FFP is calling for political gatherings if the party
must dissolve. Although there are currently no indicators suggesting political
violence or widespread unrest, exercise caution if near large gatherings,
including those that appear to be peaceful.
Some political demonstrations occur
on the anniversary of political events, while others happen with little
warning. Demonstrations can attract thousands of participants and often cause
severe traffic disruptions, especially if they include processions. Monitor
events closely, avoid any large public gatherings (including anticipated
protest sites), and exercise discretion when traveling in the country.
Demonstrations by nature can be unpredictable and can turn violent without
warning. Avoid protest events, demonstrations, large gatherings, and security
operations, and follow any instructions and restrictions issued by local
OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest
Chiang Mai has small, active Christian
and Muslim populations. There have been no mass, religiously motivated anti-U.S.
demonstrations, including from Thailand’s local Muslim community, commensurate
with those that have occurred elsewhere around the world. Local community
leaders generally enjoy a peaceful, cooperative relationship with local Muslim
leadership and the Muslim population in Chiang Mai.
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.
The intellectual property
environment in Thailand has continued to improve in recent years. While
Thailand maintains its efforts in the enforcement of intellectual property
rights (IPR), the quantity of counterfeit goods found in tourist attraction
areas remains high. Online and mobile piracy continues to increase and physical
goods piracy and counterfeiting on a commercial scale remain problematic.
The United States continues to
urge Thailand to impose effective and deterrent enforcement measures. 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
U.S. IP right owners should
consider obtaining IPR protection in Thailand before introducing their products
or services to the Thai market. Companies may wish to require non-disclosure
and non-compete agreements or seek advice from local attorneys or consult with
experts in Thai IP law, before disclosing their technologies to local partners.
The Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) oversees Thailand’s IP system.
U.S. IP owners may register their IP rights in Thailand for trademarks,
patents, designs, layout-design of integrated circuits, and geographical
indications. An address for service in Thailand and a local agent or attorney
is generally required when filing IP applications at DIP.
Thailand protects copyrights without
any registration requirement. However, you should formally record copyrights at
the DIP’s Copyright Office, as doing so would be useful as evidence of
ownership in the event of a dispute. Affix a copyright notice to all
copyrighted work. Thailand may protect trade secrets, such as data, formulas,
or other confidential information used in business, if the owner provides
appropriate measures to maintain the secrecy.
IPR owners need to be aware of counterfeiting
of their products/services. IPR related disputes could be complex. Therefore,
if a legal action is necessary, IPR owners should seek advice from local
attorneys who are experts in IP laws and litigation. Small and medium-sized
companies should understand the importance of working together with trade
associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop
counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations, both Thailand- and
U.S.-based. These include:
The U.S. Chamber and local American Chambers of Commerce
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
International Trademark Association (INTA)
The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
The Patent Act grants an inventor/designer
exclusive right over their invention/design. Applicable patents must satisfy
invention must be new. It must not exist in another country.
idea must involve an inventive step. This inventive step cannot be an application
obvious to one who works in the field.
invention or design must have an industrial application.
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 raid and seizure 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 at the creation of the work. The creator
retains the copyright except in the following situations:
the creator is an employee hired to create the work; in which case, the
employer retains the copyright via prior agreement; or
the work is commissioned; 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 and 2017
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 identical or confusingly similar to an already registered
trademark. Aggrieved parties may pursue criminal and civil enforcement action.
Thai law views trademark infringement as a crime against the state, so criminal
proceedings can be initiated by either Thailand’s enforcement agencies or the
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
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 may 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.
Some U.S. citizens have been duped 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 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 Myanmar, 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 their
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 Chiang Mai 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. Consulate typically does 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 American Citizen Services
(ACS) at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai.
The emergency line in Thailand is 191. Reach the Tourist Police at 1155 from any local telephone. Reach Chiang Mai local
police for routine, non-emergency issues at 05-327-6040. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims
The police lack training in dealing
with sexual assault cases. 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.
If you are involved in a traffic
accident, altercation, or other situation that draws a crowd, leave the
immediate area and contact the police.
Most healthcare services in
Thailand are on par with Western standards; many doctors have received training
in the U.S. or other Western countries. Many private hospitals employ interpreters.
Most public and private hospitals have medical centers with doctors practicing
a wide variety of specialties. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya, good
facilities exist for routine, long-term, and emergency health care. Hospitals
outside of the major cities may not have a wide range of English-language capabilities.
Contact the police (191) in
a medical emergency; they will summon an ambulance to your location.
Alternatively, contact Thai EMS directly (1646 or 1669). Individual hospitals
have ambulance services; however, these services may not be reliable due to
severe traffic congestion. Drivers rarely yield to emergency vehicles traveling
with lights and sirens.
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the U.S. Mission in Thailand’s Medical
Most official and private U.S.
citizens in Thailand receive in-country care. Helicopter medical evacuation (medevac)
service is available on a very limited basis. Bangkok Hospital (02-310-3102)
advertises that it can assist in medevac situations throughout Thailand.
Ensure your health insurance plan
provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept up-front
payments. Consider supplemental
insurance to cover medevac.
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Departments
webpage on insurance overseas.
Vaccination and Health Guidance
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 Information
The Thailand OSAC Country Council
and the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (AmCham) are located in
Bangkok. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific team with
U.S. Consulate Contact
The U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai
is located along the Mae Ping River, near the northeast corner of the old city
moat, at 387 Wichayanond Road, Chang Moi, Muang Chiang Mai 50300.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 0730-1630 (except
U.S. and Thai holidays)
Embassy Operator: +66 (0)
After-hours Emergency Line: +66
Department Emergency Line: +1-202-501-4444
Nearby Post: Embassy Bangkok
Country Information Sheet
OSAC Risk Matrix
OSAC Travelers Toolkit
State Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)