Editorial: October 2014
Pretty foreign ladies, so warned our Prime Minister, should not be wearing bikinis if they wish to be safe in Thailand.
There is nothing at all surprising about this statement, if you have lived in this country for any amount of time. When there is a violent crime against a foreigner, authorities seem to go into blind panic mode. It is a “protect Thailand’s reputation at all costs” mentality.
Having not only followed, but covered many such stories over the years, I can but shake my head at the pattern. The initial knee-jerk reaction is that the crime was committed by a fellow foreigner. In 2000, seven foreign suspects went through hell as police talked freely to the press about their possible, even likely, guilt following Kirsty Jones’s murder here in our city. Had they waited for the DNA results ten days later they would have found that the DNA belonged to an Asian (which, of course, didn’t stop the chief of police from opining that foreigners could have bought DNA from a male sex worker to plant on the scene). The initial line from authorities in the 2008 Pai shooting of Carly Reisig and Leo del Pinto by a policeman was that the two foreigners were fighting and began to attack the (armed) Thai cop when he approached them to help, resulting in his multiple self-defence shooting.
Once the foreigners are off the hook, attention often is focused on the Burmese or ethnic minorities. During Jones’s case, a Karen man, Narong Abraham, was kidnapped and tortured but bravely refused to confess before DNA evidence cleared him. And don’t forget all the Burmese and Cambodian migrant labourers who were swept up along with the (later to be found guilty) Thai fishermen for DNA testing following Katherine Horton’s 2006 rape and murder on Koh Samui.
Once fingers have had to be retracted from pointing to non-Thai nationals following DNA exoneration, it is time to insult the victims. The murdering Pai policeman attempted to sue Carly Reisig for attacking a police officer…who is now serving 37 years in jail. Kanchanaburi’s police killer of Vanessa Arscott and her fiance Adam Lloyd accused Lloyd of being enraged over jealously of his flirting girlfriend…which led the officer to run them over before executing them in front of up to 16 witnesses.
The bumbling lead investigator overseeing the Kirsty Jones case gleefully showed all the news reporters the condoms found in her travelling bag then outlandishly suggested that she was having consensual sex which got out of hand. “It was an accident,” he said before the autopsy proved him not only wrong but an utter imbecile. And now our dear general is inferring guilt on the Koh Tao victim simply because she had the audacity to be pretty while wearing a bikini…on a resort island.
All through these horrific cases is the constant plea to the public to protect Thailand’s image. Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra pleaded for Thailand to curb such murderous crimes as those against Katherine Horton, saying they would ruin Thailand’s reputation (never mind the fact that they should be curbed so no one else gets murdered). Our current leader has also called for the protection of our country’s name, which “could suffer all sorts of consequences” following the recent murders, urging us to “look at the behaviour of the other party (the victims), too.”
Dear men in authority, please just stop talking. Take some media training courses. Learn to say, “no comment at this time.” Or tell reporters that unless facts have been verified you won’t be speculating on details of the crime, on behaviour of the victims, or on anything else that is simply beyond your ken. What you don’t seem to understand is that crime happens everywhere in the world. No one is going to blame Thailand for having criminals. It will be news as it is news when a vicious crime happens anywhere. But what turns news to sensation, what brings it to the front pages, are your words. You are the ones shaming Thailand. When you speak without thinking, when you make ignorant and insensitive remarks, when you make fools of yourselves, this is when Thailand’s reputation goes down the drain. It is not the crime which hurts Thailand, it is your reaction to it.
As the song goes, you say it best, when you say nothing at all.