In late July of this year, a Dutch woman, on the way home from celebrating her 19th birthday at a bar in Ao Nang Krabi, was allegedly beaten and raped by a Thai tour guide. When she later arrived at hospital, the medical team treating her assumed she had been in a motorcycle accident because of the severity of her injuries. The assailant, whom she identified and who initially confessed to the crime when arrested -- a month later -- is now out on bail, and denying guilt.
Unfortunately crimes in Thailand similar to the above are not nearly as uncommon as you'd hope. A quick Google search brings up the case of a 23 year-old Israeli woman who was attacked and raped on Ko Pha Ngan; a 34 year-old Finnish woman attacked and raped on Ko Lipe; and a 23 year-old Australian woman raped by two men on Phuket. And that is just from the first two pages of results.
What makes the case of the Dutch woman slightly different is that her father released a video, titled "The Evil Man of Krabi", in which he takes the authorities to task for what he believes to be lax treatment. The video has gone viral and now been viewed more than 400,000 times.
As press coverage of the video, increased perhaps due to another attack in Krabi where an English couple were stabbed by a gang of seven youths, some news reports have hinted at Krabi hoteliers seeing some room cancellations due to a perception of Krabi, and particularly Ao Nang, being unsafe.
This development brought a woeful response from the Thai authorities. First the permanent secretary of the Tourism and Sports Ministry Suwat Sitthilor stated that the video should be blocked in Thailand. Then, in a step back into the 17th century (possibly earlier), Tourism Minister Chumphol Silapa-archa stated that the attack couldn't be considered rape because (quoting Thai police) "The woman had dinner with the Thai suspect and a foreign man. Later, she told the foreign man to return to the hotel before heading off with the suspect." (The victim's boyfriend has denied they had dinner with the assailant beforehand -- but even so, who cares if they had?).
Sorry Chumphol Silapa-archa, we missed the bit where you display at least a token of empathy towards the 19 year-old woman who was raped in the country that you are in charge of promoting for tourism. Yes, rape is bad for business -- as it should be.
All people in Thailand, be they foreigners, locals, women or men, should be able to enjoy themselves without worrying about becoming a victim of apparently state-sanctioned rape.
Instead, we're confronted with state bodies dismissing the attack, trying to block the video and now apparently planning their own video release promoting Thailand as a destination. "Amazing No-Raping Thailand" perhaps?
Perhaps a more astute response would have been to apologise, profusely, and explain how you are working with authorities to try and get the bail revoked, as as it stands, it may be two years before this guy even faces trial.
Let's not forget that the assailant's sister (who also owns a bar in Ao Nang) came forward to offer the victim an inducement to drop the charges.
We'd have assumed one of the best ways to improve Thailand's reputation would be to have people like this behind bars.
In the meantime, what are potential rape victims -- sorry, I mean tourists -- to do to have a safe journey in Thailand?
Stay in control. If you're going to have a big night out, do it with friends. Don't accept rides home from complete strangers.
Or just don't go to Krabi.
Over the last few years there have been a number of deaths of young foreign travellers in Thailand that have received poor, or at least not particularly transparent, investigations. Most famously, perhaps, was the Chiang Mai rape and murder of Kirsty Jones in 2000. Since then there have been the bizarre "chemical deaths" in Chiang Mai and Ko Phi Phi, toxic cocktails on Ko Phi Phi and shooting deaths in Kanchanaburi and Pai. In some of these cases, the attackers are in jail; in others, no one has been punished.
Of course, the vast majority of travellers to Thailand have safe holidays and return home unhurt, save for a hangover, a motorbike burn, or a dodgy tattoo, but this is all the more reason why the authorities in charge, especially those involved in the promotion of Thailand as a destination for young travellers, should be doubling down on their efforts to solve these crimes.
Instead, they're busying themselves trying to sweep it under the carpet. It's a disgrace.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 11th November, 2012.
Planning well is an integral part of getting the most out of your trip. Be it picking the right backpack, the right vaccinations or the right country, the simple decisions are often the most important.