Is Theft in Thailand a Big Problem?

Breaking lock, theft in Thailand

Is Theft in Thailand a Big Problem?

When I first arrived I had heard that theft was something not to really worry about as the Thais’ were not a “thieving people” on the whole. I accepted that – not having heard any bad stories when I first arrived in Ubon Ratchathani. These are a few instances of thefts I experienced and other friends and co-workers over the almost 3 years I’ve been here.

The first thing I had stolen was after being in Thailand about 2 months and was a white motorbike helmet at the Big C in Ubon. I hadn’t locked my helmet under the seat as I was told it didn’t matter – that nobody ever stole helmets.

I was shocked at first, but then I chalked it up to someone mistaking mine for theirs. I give the benefit of the doubt once in a while.

The second theft I experienced in Thailand was a white motorbike helmet at the Big C in Ubon. Hmm… That’s strange, do I detect a pattern here? I wanted a white helmet because I thought maybe they’re a little bit cooler when the sun is frying everyone’s head that is wearing darker colored motorbike helmets. I bought another white one after that helmet was stolen and I started to lock the helmet to the motorbike under the seat.

The third theft I experienced was a white motorbike helmet outside a 7-11 where I just didn’t think to lock it because I’d only be in there for a few minutes. My bad.

The fourth theft I heard of was of a co-worker who was sleeping in her house (upstairs) when someone entered the house on the ground floor and took her mobile phone and some cash, but left the purse.

The fifth theft I heard of was the same thing – two girls staying in a house and sleeping when their mobile phones and purses were taken out of their bedrooms as they slept.

The sixth theft I had happen to me… As I was teaching at a private school somebody removed one of the plastic plates on my Honda Nova 2-stroke engine and removed the electric ignition system (a black box that costs 1500baht plus if you get one new.) I am sure it was some of my students in my Mathyom 3 class who were always dicking around and getting smacked on the head with my dry-erase markers. One of them the son of the woman in charge of the English program there.

The seventh and eighth thefts happened as my motorbike was parked at the home I rented. This home was surrounded by students that were attending Rajabhat and technical college. They were very poor and for some reason there is a hot market for my ignition in that Honda Nova because that thing was stolen 3 times. Eventually, after the 3rd theft I had someone hide the ignition in a different than usual position on the motorbike and anchor it with 4 bolts in a case that was attached to the frame.

The ninth theft I experienced was a white motorbike helmet at the sports park in Surat Thani. Apparently I had forgotten to lock it – though I can’t honestly remember if I did or didn’t.

The tenth theft that I heard of was of a friend’s wallet. She was riding in Ubon Ratchathani and two guys – kids under 18 years old, pulled up beside her at the red light. Just as the light turned green they reached into the front of her basket and took her wallet.

The eleventh theft I heard of from a friend was of her mobile phone being taken out of her backpack while she was someplace that really SHOULD be more secure… a BANK.

The twelfth theft I experienced was when my… WHITE MOTORBIKE HELMET was stolen from my motorbike at the sports park in Sisaket as I was running. I was lax and didn’t think to lock it as there was nobody around except the guards at their little hut just 25 meters away from the motorbike. Did the guards do it? Oh by the way, I now have a red motorbike helmet…

The thirteenth theft I heard about was from a friend that was going to open her own food cart in town. She had teamed up with her friend from long ago that agreed to work part time on the cart when my friend had to do other things like take care of her children. My friend invited this old friend to her shack where they lived and my friend’s mother lived too. They ate and relived old times… The next day the “old friend” came back to the shack and talked to the old grandmother (75+) and asked her to get something for her that was in an out of the way place in the back. As grandmother did so, this old friend went into the sleeping area of my friend’s shack and stole the 7000 baht that she was going to use to start her food cart business.

I was shocked! How could she do that to her friend from grade school and high school? They were like sisters…

The fourteenth theft I heard of was from a friend that works at a hotel. She worked with a Thai guy, about 28 years old that was very friendly and it appeared, trustworthy. He would help everyone when he could and was always smiling.

This guy had a plan… On the day before he quit the job (and coincidentally maybe?) on the last day of the month when he was paid for a month of work… he borrowed the maid’s personal cell phone saying that he really needed it for one day because he was expecting an important call and his own phone was in the shop to be fixed.

Almost 20 minutes later he asked the same thing of the security guard that worked there – can he borrow the phone for just one day because he has an emergency call coming!

This guy did not return to work for the next 15 days, and only recently they’ve written him off as probably not returning! This guy left a bottle full of piss under his bed too – seems he was pee shy to use the restroom in the common area of the free apartment they provided for him to stay in while he worked at this hotel.

Theft of camera bag through open window
So, is there a theft problem in Thailand? Yeah, there is. Will you hear about if from the Thai people? Not really. I find that they don’t talk about it much. You’ll need to ask to hear anything.
I think Thais’ don’t talk about societal problems much. That’s been my experience. Not sure how other expats see it.

I haven’t even talked about the 3 thefts that have taken me for over 250,000 Thai baht since arriving in 2004! Why? I’ve hinted at 2 of them in past blogs, but recently there was another. These are high-level theives that have extorted money from me. It’s best to be completely above board here in Thailand because as soon as you do something that’s “iffy” you might face a lot of grief in the future over it. I have.

So – how about you? Have you experienced any kind of theft here in Thailand? Heard about any Thai people using the trust of their friends and co-workers to rip someone off?

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

5 thoughts on “Is Theft in Thailand a Big Problem?”

  1. Unfortunately thieving is a massive problem in Thailand, My house was broken into, we have UPVc windows and doors, laminated glass and good lock, however somehow they got into the house, apart from trashing the house they stole TV’s and general items, no gold in the house. It was interesting that they armed themselves with my kitchen knives on their exit, I guess just in case I came home. So I am thankful that I did not. The problem is that the police do NOTHING, even if caught they do nothing. This is Thailand. Maybe I should get a gun, but of course if I shoot them I am in trouble even though they are in my house.

  2. Wow, yeah – see? Seems like there IS a problem here. LOL. I think in every country – especially the visitors would be getting robbed quite a bit. But I’m not sure – it seems as if the Thais’ are robbing Thais’ on the same scale… Just that when farangs get taken it’s usually bigger money. Or we hear about the bigger money thefts more often anyway.

    I like what Jewie said – you “gotta be 200% situation aware”. That sums it up – if you care about your stuff or money – you really need to look after it here. Whereas even in the USA I could be less attentive to it. Not worry so much. Here – you must if you want to keep it!

    Jewie – yes – what is with the surveillance… they ALWAYS catch the person robbing a store or bank on camera… however, the camera quality sucks so bad that there isn’t a chance of actually positively identifying the thief.

    Darwin – I’ve heard of those stories- leave for a day, a week and return and the house is emptied out – nothing left. That must really suck. Was that a guy from California, because I know one in Warin that this happened to…?

    Jimbo – I don’t rent a home that doesn’t have bars on the windows and behind the doors. I put locks on every gate behind the doors too! In Surat I had 5 padlocks for doors. 1 padlock for the large driveway gate. 1 padlock for the pedestrian gate next to it. It was funny trying to get in the house sometimes – like a fortress. But since I did not want to take everything I owned over 10,000 baht with me everywhere I went – it had to be like that…

    Thanks for the comments guys

  3. Vern,

    I have never had anything stolen,(besides my heart) in my nearly 7 years living here in Ubon and the 6 years before that when I was coming here several times a year as a soldier.

    I have had friends who have had helmets stolen from the motorcycle at Lotus. Usually on those police paydays when they are out issuing tickets for no helmet. Some great security eh.

    Maybe I have been fortunate but other than being overcharged never had the experience. I have traveled all around Thailand too so maybe the gods are watching over me.

    I had a friend here in Ubon who went on a road trip for 3 days. When he came back he discovered his girlfriend had stolen eveything in their house.

  4. When I first visited my wife’s family home in Bangkok, I was quite shocked to see the steel bars at the windows and the front door which resembled something like you might find in Bangkwang prison – all bolts, heavy chains and padlocks!
    It’s all there for a good reason!

  5. My office was robbed off THB200,000 + in cash… police didn’t do anything. My friend while eating at Macs had an asshole distract him by asking to look in another direction blabbering in frantic Thai as if something big is happening there while his accomplice took away his phone and wallet. Another friend had her bag snatch while walking along the sidewalk by a robber on scooter. The neighbors of a friend in a new estate had construction workers broke into the house without installed security grills and lost money and gold, but they managed to catch one of the thief still hiding in the house and beat him to a pulp before handing over to the police. The car workshop I went to had their safe broken into by an ex employee. I had my phone stolen by some waiter right from underneath the noses of my friends when I left it on the bar table at a pub when I went to toilet. Yet another friend had his wallet stolen, ATM card used to withdraw a lot of money and the police said ATM recording was a blur, couldn’t do anything (friend was careless to write the pin number on piece of paper in wallet). Live in Thailand, gotta be 200% situation aware, no one will help you as thieving seems the norm. So my office workers had baseball bats or huge scary looking knives in their cars for self protection. Most people are poor and will do anything just to get by day to day, even if it means selling their daughters or girlfriends for sex.

    One thing I found interesting on the TV. They always managed to record the thief in action if you have video surveillance installed in your premise. These thieves seem bold and do not mind having their actions recorded.

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