Thailand drops joint patrols with Chinese police after public backlash

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand rolled back on Tuesday plans of joint patrols with Chinese police in popular tourist spots after public backlash.

Tourism officials on Sunday floated the idea of having Chinese and Thai police patrol much-visited areas to build confidence among tourists, including Chinese nationals.

The plan, however, sparked uproar online, drawing criticism that it compromised national sovereignty, and a rebuke from the country’s police chief.

“There are many alternative ways to build confidence for tourists in Thailand … but we will not have joint patrols,” Tourism Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol told reporters on Tuesday.

“The Thai police force is already adequate and are working hard to restore confidence,” Sudawan said.

Thai authorities have rushed to tighten security after last month’s shooting spree at a luxury mall in Bangkok in which two people, including one Chinese national, were killed, fanned safety concerns.

Restoring confidence is critical for Thailand’s tourism industry, especially among Chinese visitors.

They accounted for 11 million out of record 39.9 million foreign tourist arrivals in Thailand in 2019, but their return after the COVID-19 pandemic has been sluggish, prompting the government in September to waive visa requirements for Chinese nationals.

So far this year, Thailand has welcomed 23.2 million foreign arrivals.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng, Editing by Tomasz Janowski)