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The ruling Junta in Thailand is not the least bit impressed with the way that the country is portrayed in the movies as a place of lawlessness, ladies of the night, drugs, thugs and mafia. The Junta belies that Thailand should be ashamed of this image and has embarked on a campaign to clean it up.
Since the 22nd of May coup he had lead a crackdown on crime, described by Army Commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha as a morality cleansing. He went on to say that before democracy can be restored corruption and lawlessness has to stop. He has talked about returning the Buddhist country to a place of moral standing where the law is respected, including police, politicians and other authorities who readily take payments to ignore crime. In fact kicking out corrupt politicians was part of the justification for overthrowing the elected government.
“Foreign tourists should not have a perception that they can come to Thailand to commit illegal activities as often portrayed in the movies,” he said in one of his weekly televised speeches. “I am ashamed. Do you not feel the same when this is portrayed in foreign films?”
“We have to change this perception.”
Whether or not the crackdown has lasting effects, it has shined a light on Thailand’s underworld and highlighted just how far-reaching lawlessness here really is.
This week the Junta has vowed to banish mafia style gangs who control the taxis in Bangkok’s main airport and announced that extortion gangs manage queues at Suvarnabumi International Airport and screen passengers for drivers who prefer to drive long distance, a situation very few, if any tourists were aware of. He has vowed to install a computerized registration system that will require drivers to sign in and accept all passengers regardless of their destination.
So far, there’s no sign of targeting straight-forward prostitution and the many go-go bars that bring in heaps of cash for Thailand’s tourist towns. But, police working with the navy in the seaside town of Pattaya have turned to the longstanding problem of criminal ladyboys, as transvestites are known in Thailand. On Thursday alone, police rounded up 50 ladyboys that offer sexual services to foreigners and then rob them, said Pattaya police Lt. Col. Phairot Petchploy. “They pretend to be embracing or touching the foreign tourists and then steal their phones or wallets,” he said. To address the problem, he said, police are sending plainclothes officers out cruising with tourists to bait and catch the criminals.
The National Office of Buddhism set up a 24-hour hotline Friday to accept complaints about misbehaving monks. The idea for the hotline emerged after Prayuth instructed the office to curb bad behavior among monks and protect the image of Buddhism in the predominantly Buddhist country of 67 million people. The move follows a number of high-profile scandals in recent years, including a case last month of five defrocked abbots charged with sexually abusing boys. Last year, a disgraced monk was fired after a video on YouTube went viral showing him in aviator sunglasses on a private jet ride with a Louis Vuitton carry-on.
Since the coup, the army has publicized the discovery of arms caches to justify its intervention. Last week, the junta chief said soldiers had seized 88 war weapons, more than 1,200 illegal guns, more than 7,000 bullets and 300 grenades and explosives.
Not all were connected to politics. Prayuth said some of the weapons belonged to illegal businesses.
The National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta refers to itself, is ordering prisons to get tough on drug dealers. The military has compiled a list of inmates suspected of peddling drugs via phone from inside prisons, assistant army chief Gen. Paibul Khumchaya told the Bangkok Post. The army has given prisons a one-month deadline to stop traffickers from operating on the inside. It has also asked banks to monitor suspicious accounts held by inmates suspected of laundering money acquired from drugs and illegal gambling.