Friday, May 31, 2013

Thailand: Victim Compensation Programs Can Avoid Insolvency by Preventing Incidents Before the Fact

According to The Pattaya News, and still facing considerable media attention from an April 2013 speedboat accident that injured 18 foreign tourists and 2 guides, Thai politicians report that a fund set up to compensate injured and victimized tourists must be overhauled before it becomes insolvent.

At a May 22 administration board meeting, Banglamung District Chief Sakchai Taengho said the by-laws governing the Pattaya Tourist Support Fund should be amended and the program transformed into an association that can solicit donations to stay afloat.

Sakchai said that the municipality of Pattaya paid three victims of the April 21 collision of two tourist boats off Koh Larn 20,000 baht (US$662) each, leaving only 500,000 (US$16,550) baht in the city's compensation fund. Obviously, that may not be sufficient to cover the rest of the fiscal year, given the high rate of criminal victimization.

Consequently, Banglamung District Chief Sakchai said Pattaya’s tourist compensation fund needs prompt help not only to address victims of serious crimes, but to increase eligibility before incidents have an adverse affect on tourism.

Currently, tourists with non-disabling injuries can receive a maximum 20,000 (US$662) baht each. Those disabled by injuries can receive up to 50,000 (US$1,655) baht and the fund will pay families of tourists killed in Pattaya 100,000 (US$3,310) baht.

In the case of the South Korean tourists, fund administrators made an exception to allow payment to the three South Korean accident victims, one of which lost a leg. The national government also picked up the cost of hospitalization of the three and medical evacuation back home.

COMMENT: Unlike the majority of countries that have nationally-funded crime victim compensation programs, Thailand has no such program, although municipalities that have a large number of tourists do budget for local compensation programs.

Ideally, the central government in Bangkok should authorize appropriate funding to the five groups of 76 provinces and provide appropriations to provinces and municipalities that are major tourist centers.

Unfortunately, Sakchai's proposal is to create a private association in Pattaya that would enable such an association to solicit donations from the tourist industry, but implementing such a program no doubt would be very problematic in terms of it being equitable.

Unfortunately, the Thai government alternatively should reorganize the Royal Thai Police and direct them to be far more proactive and preventative than is the case at the moment.

Needless to say, most provincial police districts "wait for something to happen to a tourist," rather than preventing incidents to begin with. This reality is partly the fault of permitting tourists to do what they want, rather than rigorously enforcing laws and enacting laws that pose risks to the public and specifically to tourists.

As most of our readers know all too well, I have urged that the Thai government use plainclothes saturation patrols to prevent crimes before they occur and crack down on rental operators who rent two-wheeled motorized vehicles to operators with no experience and enforcing current traffic laws on impaired tourists before they kill themselves or others. 

Additionally, motorcycle/motorbike helmets are not required in Thailand, which is a must, as countless tourists have been killed in Thailand because helmets are not mandatory.