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Thailand: Crime situation, including organized crime; efforts to address police corruption; state protection for witnesses of crime

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 12 January 2010
Citation / Document Symbol THA103320.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Thailand: Crime situation, including organized crime; efforts to address police corruption; state protection for witnesses of crime, 12 January 2010, THA103320.E, available at: [accessed 29 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Street crimes such as purse-snatching, pick-pocketing and theft are "common" in Thailand (Canada 2 Dec. 2009, Sec. 3; US 8 Jan. 2009). Organized crime groups operating in Thailand are involved in drug production and trafficking, human smuggling, prostitution and arms trafficking (US 8 Jan. 2009; IMF Dec. 2007, 10; US Jan 2007, 14, 15). A travel report updated by Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade warns of violence, especially in the southern regions of Thailand, where incidents such as shootings, bombings, beheadings and arson have taken place (Canada 2 Dec. 2009, Sect.2; HRW Jan. 2009, 5; AI 2009). Some of these incidents are attributed to armed insurgents (Canada 2 Dec. 2009).

In a 6 July 2009 article in The Nation, the Crime Reporters and Photographers Association of Thailand reported that, according to its analysis of police crime statistics, Thailand's crime rate increased by 8.25 percent from 2007 to 2008. The Association's study grouped crimes into the following categories: sex crimes, vice (e.g., crimes related to illegal drugs and gambling), property crime and homicides (The Nation 6 July 2009). Police statistics also reportedly indicate that drug crimes increased by 43 percent and motorcycle thefts went up by one percent (ibid.). In total, police statistics note that 458,188 crimes were committed, including 202,852 drug crimes and 20,039 motorcycle thefts (ibid.). Further details or corroborating information on police statistics was not found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, a United States (US) based professor who is an expert on crime and law enforcement in Thailand stated in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate that "crimes are under-reported" in Thailand (11 Dec. 2009). He explained that

most people don't tend to report property crime unless they have a reason to – for example, unless they plan to make an insurance claim. Moreover, police statistics are not necessarily reliable since there is a lack of rigour in the way that the data is collected. In particular, not all crimes are necessarily captured by all police units in their statistics. There is also no standard methodology for categorizing crimes. (Professor 11 Dec. 2009)

Similarly, a study undertaken by researchers from the Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University on behalf of the Thai Justice Ministry reportedly found that 63 percent of 1,531 crime victims surveyed in Bangkok did not file reports with the police (Bangkok Post 27 Dec. 2007).

Organized crime

Both local and international organized crime groups operate in Thailand (US 8 Jan. 2009; Professor 11 Dec. 2009). The Professor stated that "organized crime groups from foreign countries ... are more powerful than any local Thai organized crime groups" (11 Dec. 2009).

According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a US government federal advisory committee, very few members of organized crime groups are apprehended by the police (8 Jan. 2009). The OSAC attributes the low rate of apprehension to "corruption, resource limitations and inefficiency" (US 8 Jan. 2009).

Police corruption

Various sources state that police are "corrupt" in Thailand (Thai News Service 28 Sept. 2009; Bangkok Post 15 Oct. 2009; HRW 14 Dec. 2009; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 1d; Professor 11 Dec. 2009; Freedom House 2009). Research undertaken by the National Institute of Development Administration and supported by the Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) reportedly found that police "abuse their power" by taking bribes from illegal businesses, violating police ethics, engaging in extrajudicial killings, torture and forced confessions as well as being involved in drug dealing and accepting goods and services in return for police services (Thai News Service 28 Sept. 2009). Similarly, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that the Thai police have "sweeping powers," use "violence and illegality to fight crimes" and have engaged in "horrendous misconduct" for which they have "rarely" been punished (HRW 14 Dec. 2009). Moreover, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) describes the police force as the "top violator of human rights" in Thailand, saying police act with "impunity" (3 Sept. 2009). A non-governmental organization (NGO) that has general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (UN), the ALRC is based in Hong Kong and has worked extensively in several Asian countries, including Thailand (ALRC 3 Sept. 2009). The government of Thailand has declared that ALRC statements regarding human rights violations by the police are "unsubstantiated" (ALRC 3 Sept. 2009).

Government efforts to address corruption

Thailand's anti-corruption legislation has been ranked by Global Integrity as "strong" (Global Integrity 2007; Global Advice Network n.d.a). Global Integrity is an independent, non-profit organization tracking governance and corruption trends around the world (Global Integrity n.d.). Various types of corruption, including bribery, are addressed by Thai Penal Code (Tilleke & Gibbins Aug. 2009, 160). The Penal Code provides for sentences, including the death penalty, for those found guilty of corruption (ibid., 162). According to a report produced by Tilleke & Gibbins, "the largest, independent multi-service law firm in Thailand" (n.d.), the Penal Code is "a rather ineffective tool against corruption" because it is "difficult" to gather the documentary evidence necessary to prosecute (Aug. 2009, 162). The law firm's report further indicates that few corruption cases have been brought to trial (Tilleke & Gibbins Aug. 2009, 162). Corroborating information regarding the number of cases brought to trial could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time frame of this Response.

The Professor commented that the implementation of legislation to address corruption is "weak," adding that government efforts to address police corruption have only a "temporary" and not a "major" impact (Professor 11 Dec. 2009). He further stated police corruption is a problem, particularly because of low police salaries (ibid.). Similarly, a crime report produced by OSAC states that police pay is low, adding that limited funding and training hampers police effectiveness (US 8 Jan. 2009).

The National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) is a government institution in Thailand that addresses corruption (Global Integrity 2007; Vasuwat 2008; Quah 2009, 16), including by conducting investigations into any "wrongful offence" committed by a state official (Thailand n.d.a). Since July 2008, the NCCC has also been called the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) (ibid. n.d.b; Tilleke & Gibbins Aug. 2009, 162).

The NACC has "broad powers of investigation" (Tilleke & Gibbons Aug. 2009, 162; Global Integrity 2007) and it is not under the control of the executive branch (Vasuwat Sept. 2008, 133; Quah 2009, 16). The institution has the power to overrule the Attorney General and initiate prosecution (Tilleke & Gibbons Aug. 2009, 162).

However, Global Integrity reports that the NACC is not "protected from political interference," because 33.33 percent of the NACC staff are drawn from political parties (2007). Similarly, Global Advice Network – a private company specializing in corporate integrity and anti-corruption issues (n.d.b) – reports that new members were appointed to the NACC following the 2006 military coup in Thailand, reportedly to ensure loyalty to the new government (n.d.c).

Thai News Service reports that between 2001 and 2008, the NACC received 3,053 complaints against police officers: 2,540 cases have been investigated and 104 police officers found guilty (28 Sept. 2009). For example, on 8 December 2009, Captain Nat Chonnithiwanit and seven members of the 41st Border Patrol Police were found guilty of illegal detention, assault with weapons and extortion (HRW 14 Dec. 2009; AI 2009; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 1d).

In addition to the NACC, complaints regarding police abuse can be submitted to the superior of the officer in question, the Office of the Inspector General, the Police Commissioner, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Law Society of Thailand, the Court of Justice, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Prime Minister (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 1d).

Witness protection

The Witness Protection Act was passed in 2003 (AHRC/ALRC June 2006, 13, 16). A 2008 report produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicates that the annual budget for the witness protection program in Thailand is approximately $500,000 US dollars (UN 2008, 53). The money is allocated to the following three program areas:

(a) General protection measures, such as police protection, safe houses and removal of the witness's personal data from the court records;

(b) Special measures to be applied in serious crimes, including change of name and place of residence, financial support and physical security;

(c) Compensation for the families of witnesses who are killed. (UN 2008, 53)

The report states that 100 people are reportedly offered protection each year, either by means of police protection or safe houses (ibid., 53). The Witness Protection Office plays a coordinating role with respect to Thailand's witness protection program, according to a 2006 report by the ALRC and its "sister organization" the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ALRC 3 Sept. 2009, 16). The report indicates that the law is unclear about how that office's coordination role should play out in practice (ibid., 17).

The report also indicates that the witness protection program is "an extremely important initiative" but adds that it also has "existing severe limitations" (ALRC/AHRC June 2006, 5). For example, the report indicates that most elements of the witness protection program are under the control of the police (ibid.). In particular, the police have the power to decide whether or not to offer protection; they can accept or reject a case referred to them by the Witness Protection Office (ibid., 19). Once a case is accepted, all decision-making regarding protection is made by the police and not by the Witness Protection Office (ibid.). The report states that it can take years for a case to be tried, adding that witnesses may also need protection "well beyond" the time a case closes (ibid., 21). However, with some rare exceptions, only short-term witness protection is offered by the police (ibid.). The report also states that the Witness Protection Office lacks the human and financial resources it needs to be "effective" (ibid.).

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 corroborates that the Witness Protection Office has "limited resources" and that witness protection is primarily offered by the police (US 25 Feb. 2009. Sec. 1e). The report states that "protection was inadequate," according to witnesses involved in cases of alleged police abuse (ibid.). Country Reports 2008 further indicates that witnesses said they were "intimidated" by the officers sent to provide protection (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 2009. "Thailand." Amnesty International Report 2009. [Accessed Dec. 7 2009]

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)/Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC). June 2006. "Special Report: Protecting Witnesses or Perverting Justice in Thailand." Article 2. Vol. 5, No. 3. [Accessed 4 Dec. 2009]

Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC). 3 September 2009. "Thailand: 'Unsubstantiated' Police Abuses, Impunity and Human Rights Charades." [Accessed 7 Dec. 2009]

Bangkok Post. 15 October 2009. Sanitsuda Ekachai. "Corrupt Police are 'Major Problem'." (Factiva)
_____. 27 December 2007. "Report Shows Bangkok Thieves Normally Strike After Midnight." (Factiva)

Canada. 2 December 2009. Foreign Affairs and International Trade. "Travel Report: Thailand." [Accessed 4 Dec. 2009]

Freedom House. 2009. "Thailand." Freedom in the World 2009. [Accessed 17 Dec. 2009]

Global Advice Network. N.d.a. "Snapshot." Thailand Country Profile. [Accessed 17 Dec. 2009]
_____. N.d.b. "Global Advice Network: Risk Management and Corporate Integrity." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2009]
_____. N.d.c. "Public Anti-Corruption Initiatives." Thailand Country Profile. [Accessed 9 Dec. 2009]

Global Integrity. 2007. "Thailand: Integrity Indicators Scorecard." [Accessed 9 Dec. 2009]
_____. N.d. Independent Information on Governance and Corruption. [Accessed 30 Dec. 2009]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 14 December 2009. "Thailand: Convictions of Police in Drug Campaign Abuse a 'First Step'." [Accessed 21 Dec. 2009]
_____. January 2009. "Thailand." World Report 2009: Events of 2008. [Accessed 3 Dec. 2009]

The Nation [Bangkok]. 6 July 2009. "Crime Rate up 10%, Incidence of Rape Rises." (Factiva)

Professor of Criminal Justice. 11 December 2009. Telephone interview.

Quah, Jon. S.T. 2009. "Combating Corruption in the Asia-Pacific Countries: What do we Know and What Needs to be Done?" International Public Management Review (IPMR), Vol. 10 Issue 1. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2009]

Thai News Service. 28 September 2009. "Thailand: Study Examines Police Abuse of Power." (Factiva)

Thailand. N.d.a. Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). "Power and Duties of the National Anti-Corruption Commission." [Accessed 30 Dec. 2009]
_____. N.d.b. Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). "Historical Perspective." [Accessed 30 Dec. 2009]

Tilleke & Gibbins. August 2009. Thailand Legal Basics. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2009]
_____. N.d. "Tilleke & Gibbins: Lawyers since 1890." [Accessed 18 Dec. 2009]

United Nations (UN). 2008. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Good Practices for the Protection of Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings Involving Organized Crime. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2009]

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Thailand." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 10 Dec. 2009]
_____. 8 January 2009. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). "Thailand 2009 Crime & Safety Report." [Accessed 30 Nov. 2009]
_____. January 2007. Department of Justice. Asian Transnational Organized Crime and Its Impact on the United States. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2009]

Vasuwat, Sirirat and Supinya Berkfah. September 2008. "Anti-Corruption in Thailand: Corruption Control in the Judiciary and Prosecutorial Authorities." First Regional Seminar on Good Governance for Southeast Asian Countries. 17-21 December 2007, Bangkok Thailand. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2009)

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Representatives from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), City University of New York, Global Integrity, Monach University, Rutgers University and York University were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Publications, including: Asian Journal of Comparative Law, Asian Survey, Jane's Intelligence Review, Trends in Organized Crime, World Encyclopedia of Police Forces and Correctional Systems.

Internet sites, including: Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Eldis, Ethics and Corruption in Education (ETICO),, Global Witness, Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), International Anticorruption Conference (IACC), International Crisis Group, Interpol, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Organized Crime Research, Research Council of Norway, United Nations (UN) Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Government of the United States (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Voice of America (VOA) News, World Bank.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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