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Drugs, scams and beat downs. Just another night of 'Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand'
A new documentary has the Thai tourism industry scrambling to clean up its act
The Thai tourism industry has fought hard to restore this year's high season to previous levels. But on top of economic doldrums, airport closures and political instability, it can now count Bravo's “Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand” among its infirmities.
Here’s the show’s unrestrained promo text, designed for maximum enticement:
“From adrenaline fuelled drug busts, organized tourist scams, scorned lady-boys, violent brothel disputes, bar room brawls, brutal murders, street robberies and sexual assaults, the series is filmed in the popular tourist hotspots of Koh Samui, Phuket, Bangkok, Pattaya and Chang Mai.”
Ouch. That’s gotta sting the folks at the Thai Tourism Authority, who've just launched their “Ultimate Thailand Explorers” contest in an effort to portray those very same hotspots as fun-loving family-friendly destinations.
Everything seems to be going wrong -- from unexplained tourist deaths to scams and corrupt officials.— Blogger Richard Barrow
In the first of eight episodes, which aired Monday in the United Kingdom, the cameraman just happens to stumble upon a flap involving a young British marine victimized by a jet-ski scam while visiting Phuket.
According to Phuketwan.com, 28-year-old Winai ''JJ'' Naiman, shown during the broadcast brandishing a BB gun to intimidate the marine into paying for damage he didn't do to the jet-ski, was arrested after police viewed the documentary.
“Thais who have seen the show are shocked at the image of tourism in Thailand that it portrays, with the jet-ski incident and Phang Ngan drug-taking the most alarming in a series of incidents,” says the Phuketwan.com report, adding that Phuket's governor has been urged by the deputy prime minister and senior diplomats from Australia and Britain to crack down on scams in the wake of the bad press.
The show has been a hot topic among Thai bloggers since its premiere. Here are a few of their comments.
“The situation has just been going from bad to worse,” says blogger Richard Barrow on a recent post. “This year Thailand has received a lot of negative press from the international media. Everything seems to be going wrong -- from unexplained tourist deaths to scams and corrupt officials.”
“Thailand is more like Nigeria or Cuba or Mexico,” says blogger Leosia. “It offers a great experience (for the open-minded) but you’ve got to have your wits about you. Inexperienced travelers need not apply.”
"I think Big Trouble in Thailand is much more than a waste of time…I feel it’s a fraud meant to paint Thailand in a negative light,” says blog Thailand, Land of Smiles. “The journalism was so one sided and leaned towards sympathetic to all of the British nationals involved. I truly believe that parts of this documentary were staged.”