A 19-year-old British woman made claims in UK media that she was raped and robbed on the island Koh Tao in June of this year. More often than not, rape allegations come down to “he said, she said”. According to police investigators, the alleged victim could not give details of the alleged crime scene nor attacker. As well, forensic tests revealed no semen on her clothing.
But this doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped. According to reports, she was drugged, and only woke up to briefly see a man who quickly fled. So of course, she wouldn’t have details of the alleged crime or attacker, given the state she was in. Unfortunately, what actually happened will likely remain a mystery.
Over the past decade, the popular tourist destination has suffered a string of high-profile violent crimes against tourists, from robbery to rape and murder. This case is simply the latest one, but like all the cases that went before, it has cast Thailand in a bad light… and that’s the problem with how all these crimes have been handled. Seemingly, the public image of Thailand is more important than justice for the victims and their families.
We expect better from those whose duty and responsibility it is to protect us. Whether the “us” is Thai citizens or foreign tourists. It isn’t necessary the robbers, rapists and murderers that cast Thailand in a bad light. These are vile criminals that deserve the harshest punishment, no doubt. But robbers, rapists and murderers exist in every society and in every period of human history.
Rather, it is how the authorities have handled the cases that has deepened Thailand’s negative image.
According to Australia’s news.comau, Koh Tao’s Sairee Beach has seen “10 mysterious deaths in six years”. Some of the victims include British tourists Dave Miller and Hanna Witheridge, found bludgeoned to death in 2014. Frenchman Dimitri Povse, found hanged with hands tied behind his back in 2015. British Luke Miller, found dead at the bottom of a pool in 2015. Belgian Elise Dallemagne, found dead and half eaten by lizards in 2017.
International media has dubbed Koh Tao, “Rape Island” and “Death Island”. Other than these cases occurring on the same island, there is one glaring commonality, the victims’ families accusing the authorities of either not doing enough or plainly covering things up.
Case in point, regarding the latest incidence. The authorities arrested 12 people for sharing a Facebook post about the claims by the young British woman, citing Thailand’s Computer Crime Act that prohibited sharing “false information that threatened Thailand’s security”. According to reports, they have since been released.
Here’s a prime example of knee-jerk reaction that cast nothing but doubt on the authorities’ competence and integrity. Every country has robbers, rapists and murderers. But what kind of a country make arrests on people who share stories about an alleged crime? The lack of trust in the authorities and the lose of faith in the rule of law is what casting a bad light on Thailand’s image.
Obviously, there are serious problems on Koh Tao, rampant with crimes and allegedly run by organized crimes. However, real life isn’t Tom Cruise’s Minority Report, we can’t prevent a crime before it happens. But what we do after is testament to our character and integrity.
The authorities need to earn the trust and confidence of citizens and tourists alike. The only way to do this is to fight crimes… and win. To bring justice to the victims and their families, whether they are local Thais or foreign tourists. Only a full-scale and transparent investigation into the illegal activities and crime organizations on Koh Tao, with arrests and punishments in accordance with the due process of law, would suffice.
Lives are more important than image. People’s safety and security must be the focus of the authorities, not Facebook stories. If the authorities succeed in protecting lives and providing safety and security, the image will pretty much take care of itself.
This is what we ask of those people whose duty it is to protect us.