The large numbers of deaths caused by the pandemic have already brought down the collective spirit of Thai society.
Yet, the recent murder of a Swiss national in Phuket, a female tourist visiting the province under the Phuket Sandbox scheme, is morally appalling and a disgrace to the country.
It’s not the first time a foreign tourist has been murdered during a visit to the Land of Smiles to try and enjoy the sea, sand, sun and the legendary Thai hospitality. It is utterly shameful.
Thailand ranks itself high as a leading tourist destination; yet it has performed abysmally when it comes to providing safety for its guests.
Needless to say, this recent murder has further tarnished the reputation of Thailand’s tourism industry, turning “the Phuket Sandbox” into the scene of a terrible crime.
While police investigators scour the island searching for culprits, Thai people offer deep condolences to the family of the victim.
But the only damage control that the Thai authorities can truly do is to ensure justice is well served.
The police must make an all-out effort to conduct a swift and transparent investigation to bring the wrongdoer or wrongdoers to justice.
The Thai government has quickly responded to the case so far.
National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk flew to Phuket on Thursday and special investigators have been appointed — the same team that took charge of the Koh Tao murder case in which two British tourists were killed in 2014.
A special forensic team has been flown from Bangkok to look for forensic evidence at the crime scene which can be sent back to the police lab on the same day.
Pressure will fall on the shoulders of Pol Gen Suwat. Mistakes or even doubts — as seen during the Koh Tao case when relatives of those convicted sued the Thai authorities in court over questionable forensic evidence — must not again happen. Failure is not the option.
But a solution to the overall issue will not end with a court case. The death of the Swiss tourist will bring more attention to the lack of safety measures and infrastructure at tourism sites in the country.
Currently the Phuket authority has dedicated all of its resources and power to anti-Covid measures, while other threats have been overlooked.
The authorities can’t ignore that criminals and their vices don’t go away because of lockdowns. To provide safety to civilians and tourists, the provincial governor must be serious about putting in place measures to do that.
Phuket has also suffered, in the not too distant past, from awful tourist accidents such as a boat accident in July 2018 that killed about 50 Chinese tourists.
Their boat was found unseaworthy and did not have a legal permit. Then there are the scores of speed boat accidents and even a fire on a pricey yacht.
Some of these accidents may have been prevented if the authorities had put more effort into safety measures for the island.
The latest case of the murdered Swiss tourist also shows shortcomings in safety surveillance.
The crime scene at Tone Ao Yon Waterfall is hard to access.
It’s not a mainstream tourist site but it’s popular with foreigners and promoted on websites.
However, it lacks safety monitoring equipment, something the provincial authorities must invest in along with security guards.
Any tourist destination in Thailand, be it a popular or hidden gem, must be safe to visit.
The gruesome death of the Swiss tourist must be the last.
To make this possible the authorities and the tourism industry must remember that tourists are guests in our home, they’re not just a source of revenue.