A deadly shooting at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok has raised questions about the safety of tourists and expatriates in Thailand, a country that relies heavily on its tourism sector for economic recovery.
The incident occurred on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, when a 14-year-old boy opened fire at the busy Siam Paragon mall in central Bangkok, killing two women and injuring five others. The victims included a Chinese national, a Myanmar citizen working at the mall, and another Chinese visitor.
The shooter, who was arrested shortly after the rampage, had a history of mental illness and had skipped taking his medication, according to police. The motive for the attack remains unclear.
The shooting has shocked the public and drawn criticism on social media, some of whom said they would never visit Thailand again.
Thailand’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused travel restrictions and lockdowns around the world. The Southeast Asian nation recorded only 20 million foreign tourist arrivals in the first 10 months of 2023, far below its target of 29 million for the year.
To boost tourism confidence and revive the economy, Thailand’s new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced a visa-free policy for Chinese and Kazakh tourists last week, ahead of the main tourism season. Srettha, a property developer who was elected in August, said his government would implement the highest safety measures for tourists after the shooting.
However, some analysts and industry experts said the shooting would hurt tourist sentiment and pose a downside risk to Thailand’s fragile economic recovery. They urged the government to take more steps to ensure security in all areas and improve Thailand’s image as a safe destination.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand and other agencies said they would enhance their communications strategy to ease concerns among travelers and promote Thailand’s attractions. They also said they would tighten weapons screening at shopping malls and other tourist spots.
At the re-opened Siam Paragon mall, crowds were trickling back on Wednesday. A bouquet of flowers was placed near one entrance to the mall as a tribute to the victims. Some tourists and expatriates said they were saddened by the shooting but not deterred from visiting or living in Thailand.