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05BANGKOK7242 PATTAYA: THAILAND’S EXTREME CITY

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“45770”,”11/22/2005 7:14″,”05BANGKOK7242″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”04BANGKOK4819|92BANGKOK41165″,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BANGKOK 007242

SIPDIS

INFO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

AMEMBASSY BERLIN

AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN

AMEMBASSY LONDON

AMEMBASSY MOSCOW

AMEMBASSY OSLO

AMEMBASSY SEOUL

AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM

AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE

AMEMBASSY TOKYO

AMCONSUL AMSTERDAM

AMCONSUL FRANKFURT

DIA WASHDC

HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

USARPAC DCSLOG FT SHAFTER HI

NAVCRIMINVSERVRA SINGAPORE SN

NAVFOR UTAPAO COBRA GOLD

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2015

TAGS: PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: PATTAYA: THAILAND\’S EXTREME CITY

REF: A. 1992 BANGKOK 41165

B. 2004 BANGKOK 4819

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR SUSAN M. SUTTON FOR REASON 1.4(D)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The sea-side port city of Pattaya is

one of Thailand\’s major tourist destinations, second only to

Bangkok, and a significant contributor to the Thai economy.

Attracted to the \’anything goes\’ reputation that centers

around Pattaya\’s sleazy nightlife, over 4 million foreigners

and 10 million Thais visit the area each year, making it a

hotbed for vice, police corruption and transnational crime.

As one of Thailand\’s major tourist spots, Pattaya could be a

\’soft target\’ for terrorists, but local officials are taking

steps to beef up security. With a sizable American ex-pat

community living there year round, a primary port of call for

U.S. Navy warships, and, unfortunately, the location of a

significant number of non-natural Amcit deaths in Thailand,

Pattaya remains a city of interest to Embassy Bangkok. END

SUMMARY.

—————————————–

BACKGROUND: PATTAYA AND ITS SURREAL LURE

—————————————–

2. (SBU) Pattaya is located in the province of Chonburi,

which is home to a significant amount of industry and

abundant in natural resources. Pattaya itself was a sleepy

fishing town until the 1960\’s, when it became a major R&R

point for US forces during the Vietnam War. Pattaya soon

earned a reputation for its raucous nightlife, and as the

local economy boomed from the sudden influx of tourism,

significant foreign and domestic investment followed. Today

Chonburi is one of the wealthiest provinces in Thailand,

thanks to the presence of international industry, a natural

deep water port, and sizable Air Force and Naval bases.

3. (SBU) At the heart of Chonburi\’s economy is Pattaya.

Nearly 4 million foreigners come to Pattaya each year, along

with 10 million Thais. Just two hours away from Bangkok,

Pattaya has the closest beaches to the capital, making it an

easier excursion than the beaches in the South. Pattaya is

inexpensive compared to other locations in Thailand. Pattaya

also prides itself on offering something for everyone,

whether the tourists are retired couples or families seeking

all-ages entertainment. Despite Pattaya\’s attempts to market

themselves with broad appeal, the vast majority of Pattaya\’s

tourists are single men seeking an extreme nightlife.

Although only 5% the size of Bangkok, Pattaya\’s red-light

district is larger than all of Bangkok\’s major red-light

districts combined.

————————–

TO LIVE AND DIE IN PATTAYA

————————–

4. (C) POLOFF spoke with several Thai officials based in

Pattaya, to include the Mayor of Pattaya, the Police Chief of

Pattaya, the President of Pattaya\’s Business and Tourist

Administration, and the Member of Parliament (MP)

representing the people in Pattaya, as well as one of our

local American wardens and a local newspaper reporter. All

of the Thai officials were unanimously proud of their close

coordination between themselves and Thai immigration

officials, and feel they have a very solid grasp on the

numbers of foreigners who live in and visit Pattaya. Their

latest figures show that between 300-400 Americans live in

Pattaya year round, although our warden believes this figure

doubles if you include people who spend significant periods

of the year (3 months) there. The Police Chief commented

that the Americans were the fourth largest group of ex-pats

living in Pattaya, after the Germans, Japanese, and the

English. According to newspaper reporter Somphon Yotthasak

from the Thai Rath (one of Thailand\’s largest newspapers),

Russians and Scandinavians are also moving to Pattaya in

increasing numbers and buying up significant amounts of real

estate. Whereas the Japanese living in the area work in the

industrialized sectors, the Germans, Brits, and Americans

that live in the area are either retired or involved in the

service industry. Most of the Americans living in Pattaya

are retired–many of them Vietnam Veterans who fell in love

with Thailand during the war–but there are also many Amcits

operating small businesses in Pattaya, which range anywhere

from chartering scuba dives to managing go-go bars. Thai

officials believe that native-Pattayans number under 100,000,

but migrant workers, mainly from the poor Northeast (Isaan)

region of Thailand swell the population to roughly 500,000.

The mayor of Pattaya also commented that several thousand

Thai Muslims live peacefully in Pattaya, and they often

receive visitors from the volatile South without incident.

5. (C) Apart from being a retirement destination, Pattaya

is the place people go to party. The Thai police estimate

that roughly 100,000 Americans visit Pattaya each year, and

DoD personnel assigned to Embassy Bangkok place the number of

service members visiting Pattaya for a port call at up to

10,000 per year. The Thai police believe that the largest

numbers of tourists are from Taiwan, Germany, and the

Scandinavian countries. There is also much talk about the

rise of Russians visiting Pattaya. Although only 50,000

Russians visit each year, they charter 100 flights a year

directly from Moscow to Pattaya, and Thai officials estimate

that their numbers are increasing by 15% a year (by

comparison, most nationalities are increasing their visitors

by 3-4% a year). The Russians and the Scandinavians come to

escape the long winters at affordable prices. Other large

groups of visitors include Indians (75,000 / year) and

Middle-Easterners (70,000 / year), as well as increasing

numbers from Korea and Vietnam.

6. (SBU) Embassy Bangkok\’s American Citizen Services (ACS)

unit is intimately familiar with Pattaya. According to the

ACS Chief, Thailand has one of the highest rates in the world

of death by non-natural causes for Amcits. After Bangkok

itself, most Amcit deaths in Thailand occur in Pattaya: this

year 21 of the 106 non-natural Amcit deaths in Thailand have

occurred there. The leading causes of death are traffic

accidents (usually involving alcohol), drug overdoses

(ranging from laced cocaine to using Viagra without a

prescription), suicides (from heartbroken loners) and

homicides. An increasing number of crimes against U.S.

service members are committed by transvestites. There are a

number of arrests of Amcits each year, mostly involving

immigration violations for overstaying their visas, but also

a pedophile or two. Many American fugitives have taken up

residence in Pattaya over the years, along with people who

should be getting treatment for mental illness, but are not.

——————————————— ———

VICE CENTRAL: WHEN THE SOLUTION IS PART OF THE PROBLEM

——————————————— ———

7. (C) According to local police and politicians, the most

common crimes in Pattaya are petty thefts committed by local

youths. When it comes to safety for foreigners, there were

universal concurrences from our warden, the Thai Rath

reporter, and Thai officials that Pattaya is generally safe

for tourists, and that all of the police elements are sincere

in keeping things orderly. The one exception to this,

however, is a big one: staying away from the \’dark

businesses.\’ This reference to Pattaya\’s infamous nightlife

centers around prostitution, which inevitably attracts drugs,

extortion, the mafia, and possibly trafficking in persons.

The Thai police claim they only arrest 30-35 people a month

in Pattaya, with 4-5 of them being foreigners. Police claim

that the most common crime committed by foreigners involves

drunk and disorderly conduct, but that a few times a year

they arrest a pedophile.

8. (C) Pattaya\’s night life lends itself to a significant

amount of organized crime. At the forefront of crime in

Pattaya is extortion, and at the forefront of the extortion

racket are the police. With the exception of the Police

themselves, all of the Thai officials acknowledged that

police corruption is widespread, although the officials

downplayed its impact upon business. Thai Rath reporter

Somphon said that police make between 3000 baht ($75 USD) and

10,000 baht ($250 USD) a month from each establishment so

that they can operate unimpeded, depending on the size of the

establishment and the laws they are breaking. Nearly all of

the bars involve some degree of facilitating prostitution,

but the fee can also vary based on the legality of the

business registration to how much after the 1 am closing

times the bars stay open. The President of Pattaya\’s

Business and Tourist Administration acknowledged these

figures were accurate, albeit reluctantly. When asked to go

into further detail, he hesitated and replied \”its not an

easy thing for me to talk about.\” It\’s not hard to imagine

why: on November 2nd, the editor of the local Pattaya Post

newspaper was found dead in his BMW, shot in the back of the

head. The editor had recently exposed local police

involvement with prostitution, and had been working on a

larger expose\’ on police extortion when he was killed by

unknown assailants. Interestingly enough, Somphon claims

that the police use some of their extortion money to fund

their own operations, as they are not budgeted enough to do

their jobs fully. The Pattaya City mayor disputes this

claim, though he is likely on the receiving end of the

process. Despite having four separate types of police units

operating in Pattaya, the market is large enough for all of

them to receive significant funds and for all of them to be

satisfied with their intake.

9. (C) It is difficult to assess the true level of

trans-national mafias in Pattaya due to conflicting

statements from officials, inadequate evidence of crimes, and

a difference in defining what organized crime actually is.

Reporter Somphon and Chonburi-based Thai Rak Thai MP Sa-nga

Thanasanguanwong believe that organized crime exists from

foreign elements, though even they disagree as to which

countries they came from. Somphon believes the largest

groups are German, Russian, and Scandinavian; MP Sa-nga

believes they are Korean, Dutch, and German, while a recent

article in the newspaper The Nation also referenced mafias

from Pakistan, Australia, and Canada. Conversely, the mayor

and the police both say that there is virtually no

trans-national crime at all. (Comment: neither our contacts

nor any of the newspapers mentioned the presence of organized

crime figures from the US. End Comment.) Part of the

problem is simply defining whether or not crimes committed by

foreigners can be classified as organized crime. According

to the MP, the mayor, and the police, a lot of the ex-pat on

ex-pat crimes are individual and personal, and not the work

of larger criminal gangs. Many of the newly reported crimes

include real-estate fraud, but that has been linked to

individuals instead of organized criminal groups. Even

reporter Somphon believes that violence among the ex-pats

isn\’t about mafias competing for territory or business

related, but a breakdown in relationships among friends.

However, the November 7th killing of Dutch underworld figure

John Mieremet is widely seen as a revenge killing for the

murder of another Dutch underworld figure back in the

Netherlands, causing police to rethink how Pattaya may be

linked with trans-national crime.

10. (C) The main businesses of the organized crimes are

believed to be extortion and drugs. On the extortion side,

ex-pat businessmen in the \’dark businesses\’ face a second

level of payments to crime figures from their native

countries, but not to anyone else. The drug problems involve

ex-pat residents of Pattaya selling drugs, mainly ecstasy, to

their visiting countrymen. The police are also closely

watching the rise of Russian-speaking prostitutes appearing

more openly in Pattaya. According to the police, most women

enter Thailand legally on an entertainment visa, knowing full

well that they will engage in prostitution and knowingly

accept it; therefore the police do not believe this rises to

the level of trafficking. All of the aforementioned parties

believe that many organized crime figures on the run from

their own countries hide out in Pattaya.

11. (C) In addition to the police and foreign criminal

elements, it is worth mentioning that Thailand\’s most famous

crime lord, Kamnan Poh, lives in Chonburi just a few miles

away from Pattaya. Kamnan Poh has been a figure in politics

and organized crime for decades, but was convicted of

ordering the murder of a business rival last year (reftels).

Currently free on bail while his case remains on appeal,

reporter Somphon says that Kamnan Poh approves every

construction contract in central Chonburi and receives a cut

from each. As Kamnan Poh faces the prospect of spending the

rest of his life in jail, Somphon warns that his removal from

the picture will create a huge power vacuum among criminal

elements that will extend far beyond Pattaya city. Three of

Kamnan Poh\’s sons are active in the TRT; two of them are

MP\’s. Chonburi MP Sa-nga is a close friend and the personal

attorney of Kamnan Poh, while the mayor of Pattaya is his

protg.

————————-

A PRIME TERRORIST TARGET?

————————-

12. (C) As one of Thailand\’s major tourism sites, Pattaya

could provide a very ripe \’soft\’ target for any terrorist

attack. Pattaya shares many of the same characteristics as

Bali. There is the large number of foreigners, including

many from the Middle East and other areas of concern, making

it easy for would-be terrorists to blend into the crowds.

During the high season, the streets are overflowing with

pedestrians, creating an environment vulnerable to attacks on

innocent civilians. The large foreign tourist presence and

Pattaya\’s reputation for being a \’city of sin\’ add to its

attractiveness as a target by religious fanatics.

13. (C) Thai officials contend that other factors make

Pattaya an unlikely target for terrorists. They believe that

the violence from the three southern, ethnic

Malay/Muslim-majority provinces will be contained in the

south and will not bleed over to Pattaya. They also point

out that Pattaya has been a safe place for members of terror

groups traveling in the region to shelter temporarily, and

they believe that terror groups would not want to jeopardize

this satisfactory arrangement by launching a terror attack

there. But in any case, local officials have stepped up

their security efforts. The Thai police work closely with

immigration officials and locals to track foreigners living

in Pattaya. The mayor claims that the police have trained

hotel staffs and taxi drivers about watching for suspicious

activities, and what to do should a bomb go off. The Royal

Thai Navy has EOD teams that routinely patrol the harbor.

Most recently, Pattaya has installed 85 closed-circuit

television (CCTV) cameras throughout the city, with 4

separate command centers to track activities around the

clock. The Thai police mentioned they would like to work

even more closely with American contacts at the Embassy,

noting also that previous coordinations have gone well. (In

July RSO Bangkok conducted document fraud training with the

Pattaya Police. RSO Bangkok is also coordinating a similar

training session with Thai immigration officials based in

Pattaya.)

—————-

PATTAYA\’S FUTURE

—————-

14. (SBU) The tsunami had an indirect and positive effect

on Pattaya, as many tourists afraid to visit the South head

to the beaches of Pattaya. The opening of Thailand\’s new

Suvarnabhumi airport will also benefit Pattaya, as Thailand\’s

largest international travel hub moves from a location on the

opposite side of Bangkok to a location nearest to Pattaya.

The president of Pattaya\’s Business and Tourist

Administration says that Pattaya will add another 2000-3000

hotel rooms–an increase of 10% over current levels–in the

next two years. Even at current levels, several officials

believe that Pattaya can accommodate over 200,000 additional

workers to meet the tourist demand.

15. (SBU) Comment. As Pattaya continues to grow, so will

the numbers of American citizens that go there to work, play,

retire, and die. So, too, will grow the amount of criminal

activities and risks associated with visiting there, though

the Thais appear to be making genuine efforts to combat most

of this (with the exception of their own extortion of local

businesses). Though Thailand will continue to place a high

priority on the safety and security of Pattaya\’s residents

and tourists, it will always remain vulnerable and a target

to a potential attack, though none are foreseeable at this

time. For certain, the nightlife and illicit activities in

Pattaya are still in full swing, probably due to the

crackdown on nightlife in Bangkok (and specifically shrewd

enforcement of the 1 am closing time) and the increased

numbers of foreigners visiting the city. End Comment.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Interesting cable.

    And as luck would have it, Somchai Khunpleum aka Kamnan Poh, is Ittipol Khunpluem’s (the current Mayor of Pattaya) father.

    Anthony

    June 13, 2011 at 11:43 pm


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