Stickman Readers' Submissions February 2nd, 2008

It Can Happen Anywhere…At Any Time

Personal safety in Thailand should be an issue at the forefront of every person’s mind that visits the Land of Smiles.

He Clinic Bangkok

Beneath the collective smile of a nation, there lays a black underbelly of trickery, theft and at worst, death!

Over the years, Thailand has gained popularity as a tourist destination. Once, most of these visitors to Thailand were almost entirely from what is known as the western world, Nigeria notwithstanding.

Over a period of time, Thailand has seen a slow but steady influx of others, including Russians and other former Soviet block states released from the chains of communism and with cash in their pockets, descending upon Pattaya in their droves. This of course brought the inevitable “undesirables” including what some refer to as “The Russian Mafia”, and just plain everyday criminal element.

CBD bangkok

Not so long ago, a pair of Russian men robbed a bank in Pattaya, killing a policeman and fled on a speed boat out into the Gulf of Thailand. They were soon rounded up and were brought to justice by Thailand’s finest who acted very quickly indeed, something that does not happen all that much, motivated not only by the crime itself, but as one of their own had been brutally murdered.

Not long ago, two Russian women were murdered in the early morning whilst sitting in deck chairs on the beach near Pattaya. It has been alleged that the perpetrator of the crime in this case was a Thai man – the motive, robbery.

The local Thai press in Pattaya is full of cases of petty theft, brawling, drug busts, robbery, traffic accidents and murder. It can be a dangerous place and anybody who says otherwise is either fooling themselves or is just plain telling lies.

I was also the victim of crime in Pattaya. My credit card was copied and fraud committed upon it by some loafer in the UK. This was not an isolated incident and I am reliably informed that it was for some time, the crime of choice by “influential forces” – read mafia. Easy money, without the need to resort to violence.

wonderland clinic

Scams abound in Pattaya. Last year I was approached by a man on the premise that he wanted to transfer some land into his name and was asking me to sign a witness document, which of course had provision for my name and address and other personal details. This was an attempt at gaining my personal details for the purpose of identity fraud.

This clown and his accomplice had followed me in their pickup from the Pattaya bus station and made the decision that I was a likely candidate for their criminal endeavour.

The man who approached me was an Englishman and seemed innocuous enough but as soon as his little request was made, the alarm bells began to ring. What he did not know was that I have a very good memory, photographic I have been told, and I remembered the license plate number of the pickup. I contacted the British Embassy and talked with a functionary there, passing on the details of what occurred including the license plate number of the pickup.

I hope these scumbags got their justice and with luck are now sitting in some stinking hot Thai jail with the prospect of many years incarceration at the gracious pleasure of His Majesty the King of Thailand. They surely deserve it.

Moreover, I personally know of a case where an Australian tried to cash dodgy checks {fraud}, was caught and ended up serving many years in a Thai prison for his deed. He was eventually repatriated to Australia as a prisoner, the first person to be transferred to an Australian prison, the result of an agreement between the Royal Thai government and the Commonwealth of Australia. He was recently released from a prison here in Western Australia having served out his time. I bet the Aussie prison was more like a 5 star hotel compared with the Thai hellhole he was in earlier.

Do the crime, and you will do the time. Believe me. A Thai prison is not a happy place to be for any amount of time, let alone 10 to 20 years.

Thailand is a country with a population in excess of 60 million. Add to that the fact that it seems that Thailand has become a magnet for many of the world’s criminals and you have a heady mix of danger and threat out there.

Many years ago now, a very close friend of mine was walking along a road between Chewang Beach and Lamai, Koh Samui in Thailand’s south.

It was dusk, almost completely dark when my friend spotted a person checking the rear end of his motor bike ahead. My friend became suspicious, as this person seemed at the time to be more interested in him, than the bike. So he moved to the other side and took a track off the road. Noticing that this person was now following him on his motor bike, he began to run. Of course, this was no match for a man on a motorbike and the person soon caught up with him. My friend then stopped, turned, and there was a flash and he hit the dirt, shot in the face.

Whilst on the ground, the man stole his backpack and then, leaving him for dead, rode off into the darkness.

Fortunately, my friend never lost consciousness and getting to his feet noticed the blood on his shirt. As fate would have it, he soon came across a light in the distance and thinking to himself that he had to make it to the light, walked as best he could toward it.

An American couple was having dinner on the front verandah of a small house / bungalow and were no doubt shocked to see a fellow traveler covered in blood saying in mournful tone “I’ve been shot!”

The Americans rushed him to the then Koh Samui hospital where, after stabilizing his condition, he was evacuated, first to Bangkok, then Sydney Australia, his hometown at the time of the shooting.

He lives today in Bangkok, with the bullet in the base of his head. It is of small caliber fortunately and the doctors took the view that any attempt at extracting the said bullet was more problematical than leaving it in place.

To look at him today, you would never know that he had been shot in the face. He still has a very small scare near his nose.

So the above story illustrates that one can be perfectly innocent of any wrong doing, walking along a road minding ones own business, and it can all end in near disaster.

In 2004, I went to Thailand two days after the tsunami hit. Khao Lak looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off. I will never, ever forget the things I saw that day. It still upsets me to write about – even now I feel depressed.

What I saw, nobody should ever have to witness. Hundreds of bodies including babies, young children and adults, all in varying states of decay. The smell was gut wrenching.

Again, all these people were totally innocent, enjoying their holiday in the jewel of the crown of Thailand’s tourist industry. Those were the foreigners. Many hundreds of Thais also lost their lives that faithful Boxing Day. All of these souls died as a result of a natural disaster on a scale unimaginable.

Add to that the deaths recently of a plane crash on Phuket and we can see that accidental death, the result of an event or events beyond our control or influence can occur at anytime.

Others have met their demise as a result of what may be described as “cultural insensitivity”.

Pissing off the wrong people in Thailand can meet with fatal consequences for the victim.

A girl was recently shot and killed “accidentally” as she innocently entered a bar in Kanchanaburi, an otherwise lovely little city northwest of Bangkok near the Thai – Burmese boarder. Her “crime” was to simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the same city a year or two earlier, a couple were shot dead by a drunken policeman after an argument. Recently, a Canadian was shot dead, his girlfriend shot and injured allegedly by a policeman, in Mai Hong Son province.

The sad reality of life in Thailand is that these deaths will not be the last.

Songkran is a particularly dangerous time to be traveling on Thailand’s roads.

Hundreds die in the space of only a few short days. Take a ride on the back of a motorcycle in Bangkok at any time of year in peak hour and / or on a rainy day, and anybody would be forgiven for thinking that the hour of their demise has finally arrived and it is now time to meet our maker.

“It will never happen to me” is something that we all believe, or so it seems – until it does of course.

In Thailand, anything can happen at anytime.

From an act of terror, natural disaster, and crime, accident to ill health or just plain bad luck – no one is immune.

No one.

Stickman's thoughts:

Yes, I think it is fair to say that Thailand is not as safe as it once was and tourists are targeted in a variety of ways. although the cons are still much more common than violent crime.

nana plaza