Somsak Pureesrisak, the new tourism and sports minister, says tourist safety will take priority under his watch.
“If Thailand is not a safe destination in the eyes of foreign tourists, it is useless to invest hundreds of billions of baht to promote Thai tourism,” he told a group of reporters as he marked his first official day on the job on Friday.
“So I will seriously focus on this point. This will bring sustainable tourism growth to Thailand and drive tourism revenue to meet the 2-trillion-baht target by 2015.”
Mr Somsak served as a deputy governor of Suphan Buri and Ang Thong provinces from 2002 to 2006 and as governor of Suphan Buri from 2006 to 2012.
Suphan Buri is the home of former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa, the de facto head of the Chartthaipattana Party, currently serving a five-year ban from politics. The previous holder of the tourism post was Mr Banharn’s brother Chumpol, who died in January.
Mr Somsak expressed confidence that he could work smoothly with related agencies including the Royal Thai Police.
“The state should increase punishment against those who commit crimes like robbery and assault against tourists,” he said.
“I will adopt safety measures similar to those used in Japan, a country that rarely has criminal complaints from tourists.”
Thailand attracted 22 million tourists last year despite some incidents that brought widespread negative publicity. Authorities have faced criticism for failing to deal swiftly and decisively with serious crimes including rape committed against tourists.
(c)2013 the Bangkok Post (Bangkok, Thailand). Distributed by MCT Information Services.