TV documentary stirs debate on Thailand tourism

Tourism is a big industry in Thailand. In fact, it contributes more than 12 percent to Thailand’s GDP. However, the tourism sector has been severely affected by political instability in recent years. The airport blockade by anti-government protesters last December damaged the international reputation of Thailand as a tourist destination.

In the past months, numerous news stories exposing the different scams experienced by tourists in Thailand further eroded the image of Thailand. Last September, the TV documentary entitled “Big Trouble in Thailand” aired on a British television channel. This show, which featured the bad behavior of foreign tourists and locals in Thailand, generated a heated debate in the cyberspace.

Here is the description of the show from the Bravo channel website:

Bravo’s cameras go beyond the idyllic beaches and tropical island life to capture a rare and fascinating insight into British holidaymakers as they party in paradise and discover the horrors that can happen when things go drastically wrong.

From adrenaline fuelled drug busts, organised 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.

Oneditorial, a Thai citizen, sees nothing wrong with the program

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the programme. Given the title of the programme it is guaranteed to feature scenes depicting the bad behaviour of some tourists and locals. To my surprise, many people have been making a big fuss about it.

Johnny is not happy that it portrays Thailand in a negative way:

The problem with this clearly that it paints Thailand in a less than flattering picture. Sure Thailand as corruption, drinking, sleaze, drugs and other nasties shown but there is more to Thailand than this.

Another issue is the alleged staging of events to over dramatise the series. If it is true, as evidence suggests, then this makes the documentary all the more worse for fabricating events, one of which involved a Pattaya-based gangster.

Monsicha Hoonsuwan, another Thai citizen, does not want the international community to view Thailand as a “gangster” country

I have watched a little bit of the show on Bangkok Diaries, and in deed I found it very interesting. Of course, it was outrageous. As a Thai, I do not want other people to perceive Thailand as a “gangster” country, like the way some countries are perceived. And if there are staged circumstances to dramatize the series, it definite would not gain my approval.

My problem with the series, though, isn’t the fact that they show the “real” Thailand. My problem is I don’t understand the intention of the creator of this series. Portraying a country in a different angle – that I can understand. But why Thailand specifically? Don’t the problems in the series exist universally – in every state? That kind of gets me thinking.

Bangkok Diaries uploads the episodes of the documentary. The blogger agrees that the issues tackled by the show are indeed genuine but doubts if they are often experienced by tourists:

On one level it does seem somewhat sensationalized which is to be expected of anything you watch on television but on another level this stuff does happen. The jetski rental guys are crooks. Dumb ass tourists take drugs in Thailand despite the ample warnings everywhere. Idiot drunks get themselves in trouble and get the crap kicked out of them by locals. So on that level, all of this stuff happens. The big question is whether it happens as frequently as portrayed in the program.

Thailand, Land of Smiles thinks the documentary is a fraud and that some scenes were staged

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. 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.

The controversial documentary has caught the attention of Thai authorities. Some are angry over it while some promised to act on the tourist scams featured in the show

One good thing that has come of this is that Thai authorities seem to be cracking down on the jet ski operators and the scams they perpetrate on the tourist community

Leosia criticizes the reactions of the Thai police to the airing of the documentary

This is a fairly typical response from the police. Whenever there is a problem, it must have been “staged” or someone is being “vindictive” or there is a plot against national security. Lots of bland statements repeated ad nauseum.

The Police LT is of course speaking from experience, but he’s making the mistake of thinking that foreigners have the same motivations as the Thai police force. That is, the staging of cover-ups, falsifications and filming video evidence of the suspect “pointing” at the scene of the crime.

The producer/director of TV documentary replies to critics of the show.


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