Scamming Tourists at Bangkok Airport

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel rumblings

Tourists are fleeced at Bangkok Airport by some duty free areas who seem to be in league with uniformed people.

Until the authorities clean this up in a country where corruption seems to have become a byword, it is better that tourists avoid the duty free areas.

In the press in the last few days there has been a story about two people from Cambridge who, it was claimed by authorities, were suspected of shoplifting. After coughing up £7.500 they were able to leave the country. The BBC website has a story by Jonathan Head which summarises the background.

I doubt this couple will go back

A Danish couple experienced something similar and there is now a warning to Danish tourists on their embassy website. No such warning appears on the British embassy website.
The practice is called “zig-zag”

This particular story revolves around a duty free shop called King Power. It is quite expensive compared to others and certainly more expensive than shops outside the airport. But then a lot of tourists in Thailand are in transit as they change to flights going to Australasia or Europe. There are hours to wait and, looking for something to do, people wander into the duty free shops. After all, we have all heard about the bargains that can be had in Bangkok and other places in South East Asia. Because some shops, King Power included, have blurred boundaries as to where one shop ends and another begins it can be quite easy to walk from one to another.

And the scam begins.

Taken away for interview, it seems that eventually you end up with someone in a uniform that leads to a demand for money.
Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising in a country where, according to a month old poll by Abac, 84.5% of the population accept corruption as a normal business practice and where comment columns in the Bangkok Post and the Nation have had lots of thoughts on the decline of Thailand into a country where corruption seems rife. Veera Prateepchaikul in the Bankok Post wrote an opinion piece about why people shouldn’t be surprised at this acceptance of corruption and called for education to change the concept. There have been over a hundred comments since his piece was written

But tourism is a key industry and wherever you go in the world you expect that tourists get scammed a little. You know the sort of thing, paying too much for a tatty souvenir, getting taken by a guide to his cousin’s shop. That sort of thing. You don’t expect to get fleeced of £7,500 or in the case of the Danish couple, £11,000.

The Thai government have tried to bolster tourism by allowing a variance in visas so that those transit passengers having a longer wait can go out of the airport on excursions. They have also supported Thai tourist attractions and accommodation after the airport in Bangkok was closed last December.

Now they need to do something more

Now they need to protect tourists from being fleeced at the airport. I’m not saying there aren’t genuine shoplifters and, when found, let them be prosecuted. What I am saying is that given the media coverage, this story is getting, people may well stay away from Thailand. And that would be a shame when the country has so much on offer.
But until the airport authorities and the government sort out this “zig-zag” practice at the airport, tourists would be well advised to keep clear of the duty free area.

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