When you have lived in Thailand as long as I have, you get used to hearing crazy things. That is why, when I read a news report this week that the Thai police force was partnering with 7-Eleven convenience stores to help tourists report crimes, I barely batted an eye.
In any other country, the idea that 7-Eleven convenience stores would be an appropriate place to report a crime would be met with howls of laughter. In Thailand though, it makes sense. To the Thais at least.
Before I continue, let me stress, crimes against foreign tourists in Thailand are not particularly prevalent. A tourist to Thailand may be the victim of a pick pocket or a bag snatcher, just like in just about any other country in the world, but unless you get drunk and deliberately pick fights or spend your time in prostitute areas, as a tourist to Thailand you’re highly unlikely to be the victim of a crime.
However, just like any country, crime does exist and tourists sometimes are targets as they are the ones with money. That’s why the Thai police force have decided to partner with 7-Eleven stores, to roll out a new program to help tourists who are victims of crimes report those crimes.
The program will first begin in the town of Pattaya, one of Thailand’s most popular tourist spots and, because of its large sex trade, also a town where crime against tourists does occur. If it’s successful, the program will expand throughout the rest of the country.
If a foreign tourist is the victim of a crime, all they need to do is go to a participating 7-Eleven store and file a complaint. The 7-Eleven employee who took the complaint will then contact the Thai tourist police, to get the ball rolling and get them some help. The Thai police also say employees at participating 7-Elevens have gone through a training program, to ensure they’re able to effectively help any tourist who has problems.
All well and good, as far as it goes. Unfortunately though, I’ve yet to speak to a single westerner that thinks this is a workable idea and all I’ve spoken to have given the same reason – the level of English skills of just about every Thai 7-Eleven employee is minimal at best. Non-existent at worst.
So, whether they’ve gone through a training program or not, unless the Thai police have suddenly figured out how to get 7-Eleven staff to understand English spoken in one of hundreds of different accents in less than a week, the program seems unlikely to work.
As one of my friends said, “You can only imagine how funny this could be. In staggers an Australian guy who’s just been hit over the head with a bottle and had his money stolen. After saying ‘I’d like a can of Coke, a bag of Lays potato chips, a pack of Marlboroughs and, can I please report all my money was just nicked?”, the poor Aussie will be met with a blank-faced 7-Eleven employee who will stare vaguely at him then, turn to her co-worker and mumble “Alai wah?”, the Thai version of “Huh”.
And that, unfortunately, is likely to be as good as it gets.
That the Thai police force is trying to help tourists report crimes and get a result is admirable. That they are roping in 7-Eleven staff to do so is funny and, at the same time, a little sad.
Maybe hiring a few more Thai tourist police and teaching them to speak better English might have a better and more appealing result.