Thailand must deal with the real danger to tourists

London Indo Journalist Chloe Hamilton

They look happy. Tanned, relaxed faces grinning at the camera, elbows resting on a table littered with beer bottles and cocktail glasses: the last known picture of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

Within hours of the photograph being taken on the Thai island of Koh Tao, 23-year-old Witheridge and 24-year-old Miller were brutally bludgeoned to death.

The grisly murders take the total of British tourist deaths in Thailand to 13 in the last five years and yet the country remains a popular destination for backpackers and gap-year students.

Authorities have expressed concern over the impact the murders might be having on tourism, which accounts for nearly 10% of Thailand's GDP, especially after tourism arrivals in the country fell 11.9% this August compared to the previous year.

In an attempt to restore travellers' confidence tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has suggested that visitors be given identification wristbands when they arrive, to assist them if they stay out late partying, or if they get lost – or drunk.

There are a number of reasons why this is an atrocious idea, the most glaring of which is the increased risk its introduction could pose for tourists. The motive behind the most recent killings is currently unclear, but the one thing the 13 victims have in common is that they were not local. Is it not slightly risky, therefore, to label a person as such; singling them out as vulnerable, naive, and in unfamiliar surroundings?

The whole idea attributes an element of blame to tourists, implying that it's their duty to avoid attack, and not the responsibility of the low-lifes who seek to ambush them.

Although it's crucial to instil in visitors the awareness that will hopefully keep them safe, coercing them into wrapping identification bracelets around their sunburnt wrists implies it's their responsibility to make sure they're not murdered on a beach after too many tequila sunrises.

But what of the real perpetrators? What of the monsters determined to end the lives of two young travellers, or to ensure a woman doesn't make it home safe? All these campaigns lay the heavy burden of responsibility at the victims' doorsteps with scant attention paid to the real culprits.

Maybe the Thai authorities should put more effort into reducing gang-related crime in the country, leaving tourists to enjoy their holiday cocktails threat (and wristband) free.

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