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Thailand 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Chiang Mai

East Asia & Pacific > Thailand; East Asia & Pacific > Thailand > Chiang Mai

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

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.

Please review OSAC’s Thailand webpage proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

In 2017-18, Thailand will host major events including the official state funeral for King Rama IX and likely the formal coronation of King Rama X. Both events are expected to draw large numbers of visitors to Thailand and to Bangkok specifically.

Crime Threats

Most travelers feel relatively safe; however, pickpocketing and petty crimes are occurring with more frequency. Petty theft, purse snatching, and pickpocketing are more common in the areas frequented by foreigners (major hotels, small guest houses, tourist sites, public parks). Chiang Mai’s Walking Street and Night Bazaar are a particular focus for petty criminals, who are aware that these areas are frequented by tourists who carry cash, cameras, cell phones, passports, and other valuables. Petty crimes (purse snatching, ATM robberies) continue to increase.

Violent crimes (armed robbery, sexual assault, kidnappings, murder) against Westerners or tourists remain relatively rare. Many thieves, however, carry knives, and stabbings are becoming more common.

On a few occasions, drinks have been altered in order to incapacitate a potential victim. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

While relatively rare, residential burglaries do occur in areas where Westerners live. In mid-late 2016, a group of burglars burglarized more than 100 residences in over 25 neighborhoods in/around Chiang Mai. Many of the homes were occupied at the time. The RSO is not aware of any physical confrontations with residents who were home; however, this rash of burglaries highlights the need to ensure doors and windows are locked and keys are not readily available in unlocked maid’s quarters. In January 2017, the Royal Thai Police apprehended the group of burglars, recovering items from the burglaries. There have been no further reports of incidents. RSO considers this an isolated spike in break-ins.

RSO is aware of isolated instances of domestic help 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; they are mainly concentrated in major cities. Their activities include drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, document fraud, etc. The Embassy and Consulate are unaware of U.S. businesses in Thailand that are experiencing problems associated with organized crime.

Cybersecurity Issues

Crimes involving credit/debit card fraud and identity theft occur regularly. International criminal organizations based in Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere have installed sophisticated skimming devices on ATMs to steal card holder information, which was used to withdraw money from victim accounts.

Other Areas of Concern

Periodic violence directed at government interests by an indigenous insurgency continues to plague the southernmost provinces of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat. Due to the risk of indiscriminate attacks in public places and the risk of collateral injury, U.S. citizens are urged to defer non-emergency travel to those provinces. The U.S. Embassy requires all official travel to southern regions to be reviewed and approved in advance by the RSO and the Deputy Chief of Mission.

Persons wishing to travel to border areas should check with Thai Tourist Police and review State Department guidance for the most up-to-date travel advisories. .

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Overall, the road infrastructure in/around Chiang Mai is considered adequate to good. Traffic moves on the left, and right-side drive vehicles are recommended. Driving can be dangerous due to careless drivers, so extreme caution should be exercised. Traffic laws are not strictly enforced, and driving rules are widely ignored. Traffic hazards include drivers exceeding the speed limit, drivers under the influence of alcohol, drivers running red lights, motorcycles and other vehicles changing lanes unexpectedly, motorcycles driving the wrong direction, heavily-laden motorcycles and trucks, and underage/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 commercial vehicles.

Motorcycle accidents are common and serious since motorcyclists generally have less training than car/truck drivers. The majority of traffic fatalities involve motorcycles. Local law requires a helmet to be worn when riding on a motorcycle; however, many riders do not abide, despite the police setting up random checkpoints to ticket offenders.

Pedestrian safety is also a concern. Many areas lack sidewalks, and pedestrians should not expect drivers to grant them the right of way, even in marked crosswalks. When crossing streets, pedestrians should be cautious for vehicles running red lights or driving against traffic.

Public Transportation Conditions

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. Minor and major incidents of crime involving taxis and or tuk-tuks occur, especially in tourist areas. Songthaews and tuk-tuks do not have meters.

Motorcycle taxis are not common in Chiang Mai, and the use of motorcycle taxis is not recommended.

Tour buses are also widely available for transportation between large cities in northern Thailand and are known to be generally reliable and safe.

There are a limited number of metered taxis generally at the airport, and ride-sharing services had begun operating in Chiang Mai as of late-2016. Ride-sharing services are under legal review by the Thai government.

Drivers of vehicles may attempt to charge excessive fares at airports and near major tourist attractions. Before entering a for-hire vehicle, individuals should reach an agreement on the fare. 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. Raising one’s voice and using aggressive body language could be seen as a threat to the driver. Ask to be let out of a vehicle if the driver is acting suspiciously or driving erratically. Registered taxicab drivers have a yellow placard with their name in English and their photograph on the dashboard. If the photograph does not match the driver, passengers should be wary of entering the vehicle. Police will seldom intervene in incidents involving taxi drivers. Streets, especially in the downtown area around the moat, tend to be very congested, so passengers should only exit toward the sidewalk to avoid opening a door into an oncoming car or motorcycle.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Air travel remains a relatively safe option. The last significant accident occurred in September 2007, when One-Two-Go flight OG 269 crashed at Phuket International Airport, killing 90 people, including five U.S. citizens.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Thailand’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Thailand’s air carrier operations.

Other Travel Conditions

Ferries and speedboats used to transport tourists and local nationals to and from the Thai islands are often overcrowded and carry insufficient safety equipment. The Department of State encourages U.S. citizens to avoid travel on overcrowded boats and to ensure that proper safety equipment is available before boarding any boat or ferry.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CHIANG MAI AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

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 are attributed to local armed insurgent groups that seek increased autonomy and ultimately a separate state. Grievances stem from the partitioning of the Thai/Malaysia border in the early 1900s, and there has been sporadic separatist violence over the last 100 years relating to this struggle.

The latest round of conflict (beginning January 2004) has seen a spike in violence. Incidents have included arson attacks directed at schools and buildings associated with the government; the placement of bombs 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 targeted commercial areas where foreigners might congregate. Travelers should be aware that authorities have instituted special security measures (curfews, military patrols, random searches of train passengers) in affected areas.

Thailand has experienced limited violent incursions along the Burma and Cambodia borders. Heavily-armed drug smugglers have had deadly clashes with police near Burma’s border.

Soft target vulnerabilities could easily be exploited by transnational terrorist elements, which have been known to visit and transit Thailand with relative ease. Travelers should be aware of the higher risk of attack associated with places where Americans and other foreigners congregate (clubs, restaurants, residential areas, places of worship, hotels, schools, business offices, outdoor recreational events, resorts, beaches).

On August 17, 2015, an explosion took place during the evening rush hour at the crowded Rachaprasong intersection in the central commercial district of Bangkok (near the Erawan Shrine, Central World mall, several major hotels, and the overhead bisection of the two Skytrain lines). The incident resulted in the deaths of at least 20 people and more than 100 injuries.

There have also been incidents of a smaller scale throughout the country.

In August 2016, bombings occurred at/near tourist locations in several southern provinces, resulting in at least four deaths and more than 20 injuries.

On March 7, 2015, a hand grenade exploded in front of the Bangkok Criminal Court Building; no one was injured.

In February 2015, two small improvised explosive devices detonated in close proximity to the Siam Paragon Shopping Mall BTS entrance, slightly injuring two people.

The last two areas are popular among tourists.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CHIANG MAI AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Political demonstrations have been frequent. Many are scheduled on anniversaries 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 from one site to another. The Department of State advises all U.S. citizens in Thailand to monitor events closely, to avoid any large public gatherings including protest sites, and to exercise discretion when traveling in the country. If a demonstration is expected to pass near the U.S. Embassy or Consulate facilities, entrances and functions may be restricted. Demonstrations are unpredictable and can turn violent without warning.

In May 2014, citing ongoing instability, the military enacted martial law and seized power, installing an intern government headed by Army Chief-turned Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha. Since then, the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has banned political gatherings and placed restrictions on the media, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. U.S. citizens may encounter a heightened military presence throughout Thailand. Security forces have additional powers, including the right to control movement and search for weapons. U.S. citizens are advised to stay alert, exercise caution, and monitor international and Thai media. Protest events, demonstrations, large gatherings, and security operations should be avoided, and travelers are advised follow any instructions and restrictions that local authorities Issue.

In 2016, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) passed away and King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (King Rama X) ascended to the throne. The sensitivity of these events cannot be over emphasized.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Thailand has a small Muslim population, with the majority residing in the southern provinces. However, both Bangkok and Chiang Mai have small, active Muslim populations. While mass Muslim demonstrations have occurred globally in the past few years resulting in significant violence, Thailand has not experienced the same level of response from the local Muslim community. Local community leaders enjoy a peaceful, cooperative relationship with the Muslim leadership and Muslim population in Chiang Mai.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Thailand has several earthquake fault lines. Small earthquakes continue throughout the region, most of which cause little/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 were killed, including thousands from Thailand.


Thailand experiences serious flooding during the rainy season (July-October). Flooding can last several weeks and severely disrupt normal city operations, traffic flow, and availability of services. 

Economic Concerns

Thailand has enacted several statutes intended to curb issues regarding intellectual property. Despite these efforts, counterfeit goods remain in the stream of commerce. Private enforcement options are available to aggrieved parties.

Thailand protects intellectual property rights via three main statutes: the Patent Act 2522 (1979), Copyright Act 2537 (1994), and Trademark Act 2534 (1991).

  • The Patent Act grants an inventor/designer exclusive domain over their work product. 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 the field.
    3. The invention or design must have an industrial application.

      Excluded from patent protection are naturally occurring organisms, scientific methods, and mathematical equations. Legal action can take criminal or civil form. Criminal proceedings may be prosecuted by law enforcement agencies and begin with a raid and seizure of property. The tort clause of the Commercial and Civil Code typically governs civil proceedings. In reality, few patent cases arise in Thailand.

  • 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 published. 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 agreement; or
    2. if the work is commissioned; in which case the commissioner retains the copyright via prior agreement.

      Copyright infringement is a significant issue. Pirated music and movies are sold readily on street corners. Litigation and enforcement are uncommon. Enforcement of intellectual property rights may proceed criminally or civilly. In addition to monies recovered in civil suits, copyright holders may be given 50% of fines levied in criminal enforcement.

  • The Trademark Act differs somewhat from the other statutes. A trademark must be distinctive, must not be 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, so proceeds from criminal fines remain with the government.


Privacy Concerns

Chiang Mai is a city with many picture-taking citizens and tourists. Additionally, many people use vehicle cameras to obtain a video record in the event they are involved in a traffic crash. Most areas that are considered tourist zones are under constant video surveillance, which is managed by the Royal Thai Police (RTP). These cameras record images to computers at a central Police Center and are used by the RTP to investigate crimes. Many restaurants, bars, and night clubs have video surveillance packages and will often present this footage as evidence when pursuing criminal charges against clientele. At crime scenes, the Royal Thai Police often take photographs and share them with other government officials via Line, a social media communication smart phone application.

Personal Identity Concerns

Consulate General Chiang Mai is unaware of any crimes relating to gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality or disability. 

There are no known legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Thailand. However, LGBTI groups have reported that police tend to downplay sexual abuse claims from LGBTI victims.

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.

Drug-related Concerns

Drug use continues to be a problem in Thailand, particularly the increasing use of methamphetamine and intravenous drugs. Thailand strictly enforces drug laws and penalties for the possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs. Thailand's enforcement efforts include the death penalty for drug smuggling. Convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences under harsh conditions and often heavy fines. Several U.S. citizens in prisons were arrested for trafficking 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 legal defense.

Thai police occasionally raid discos, bars, or nightclubs looking for underage patrons and drug users. During the raids, they typically check the IDs of all customers and make each person provide a urine sample for narcotics. Foreigners are not immune from these checks, and anyone who tests positive for illicit drugs will be arrested and charged. Although some civil libertarians have questioned the constitutionality of these forced tests, the Embassy/Consulate are unaware of any successful challenge to the practice, and customers can be jailed if they do not cooperate.

The government continues to fight drug smuggling along its border with Burma and Laos. Heavily-armed drug smugglers have engaged in deadly clashes with Thai Border and Narcotics Police in these areas.

Kidnapping Threat

Incidence of kidnappings is low, but the potential exists.

Police Response

Response to calls for service is better in larger cities than in smaller towns and provinces. Police effectiveness and their ability to conduct follow-up criminal investigations are hampered by a lack of funding and limited training; however, effectiveness and capabilities are increasing. The local police are generally effective in assisting with minor crimes, but a lack of funding, inadequate training, corruption, and frequent rotations prevent them from operating with the effectiveness or professionalism one typically associates with a modern mega-city.

Police officers outside the major tourist destinations frequently do not speak English. Tourist Police are stationed in popular tourist areas and are typically multi-lingual. Tourist Police generally speak English, and there are many English speaking volunteers in Chiang Mai that assist the Tourist Police with translation. They are generally very helpful in assisting tourists with minor crimes, scams, or other problems. In 2013, Thailand created several Tourist Courts to deal with petty crime and complaints involving foreigners.

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.

Individuals, including foreigners, may be detained for publicly criticizing the NCPO 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 offence. As an example, purposely tearing Thai bank notes, which carry an image of the King, may be considered a lèse majesté offense.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

In the event of police detention or harassment, travelers should 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/Consulate typically do not learn of the arrest of U.S. citizens for minor drug offenses, until several days after the incident. Please ask to contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General for assistance if detained or arrested by police. Any U.S. citizen arrested or detained by the police in northern Thailand should contact American Citizen Services (ACS) at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai.

The Embassy or Consulate staff can assist you in finding appropriate medical care, to contact family/friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, Consular officers can help arrested U.S. citizens understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Crime Victim Assistance

In the event of an emergency, the police can be contacted by dialing 191 from a local telephone. Tourist Police can be contacted by dialing 1155.

If you are involved in a traffic accident, altercation, or other situation that draws a crowd, 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.

Police/Security Agencies

Chiang Mai

Police, Routine (Local): 05-327-6040

Tourist Police: 1155

U.S. Consulate General: 053-107-777

Bangkok

Police, Routine (Metro): 02-280-5060

Tourist Police: 1155

Fire/Emergency: 199

U.S. Embassy: 02-205-4000

Phuket

Police, Routine (Local): 07-621-2115

Tourist Police (Local): 1155

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities for routine, long-term, and emergency health care are generally adequate. Smaller towns and outlying areas may lack the facilities, expertise, and specialist medical personnel of major metropolitan areas.

Contact the police (191) in a medical emergency, and they will summon an ambulance to your location. Alternatively, contact Thai EMS directly (1669). Individual hospitals have ambulance services; however, these services should not be relied upon due to severe traffic congestion. Drivers rarely yield to emergency vehicles traveling with lights and sirens.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Bangkok Hospital: 052-089-888

Chiang Mai Ram Hospital:  053-920-300

Lanna Hospital:  053-999-777

Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital:  053-947-000

McCormick Hospital:  053-921-777

Available Air Ambulance Services

Helicopter Medevac service is available on a very limited basis. Bangkok Hospital (02-310-3102) advertises that it can assist in Medevac situations throughout Thailand.

Insurance Guidance

Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept upfront payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. The Consulate strongly recommends supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Thailand.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Thailand OSAC Country Council and the American Chamber of Commerce Thailand (AmCham) are based in Bangkok. The AmCham meets on a monthly basis and can be contacted through the Chamber of Commerce at 66-2-254-1041 or online. Please contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

The U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai is located along the Mae Ping River near the northeast corner of the old city moat.

U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai

387 Wichayanond Road, Chang Moi, Muang Chiang Mai 50300 THAILAND

Consulate Contact Numbers

If calling from outside of Thailand, use country code “66” and drop the leading “0.”

Switchboard: 053-107-700

Regional Security Officer: 053-107-784

After-hours Duty Officer: 081-881-1878

American Citizens Services: 053-107-777 (inside Thailand); +66-53-107-777 (outside Thailand)

Email: acschn@state.gov

Fax: 053-252-633 (from inside Thailand); +66-53-252-633 (from outside Thailand)

Hours: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Thai and U.S. holidays).

Website: https://th.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulate/chiang-mai/

Nearby Posts

Embassy Bangkok: https://th.usembassy.gov/ 

Additional Resources

Thailand Country Information Sheet