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Thais Scramble To Allay Tourist Fears After Recent Assaults

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Thais scramble to allay tourist fears after recent assaults

By Seth Mydans

Published: March 23, 2008

BANGKOK: The Thai police will hand out whistles to female tourists after the latest in a long series of periodic sexual assaults and killings on beaches and elsewhere in the country, officials said.

"We will issue the whistles first in risky areas such as beaches, valleys, mountains, national parks, waterfalls and other risky spots," Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police, said in an interview last week.

While Thailand is generally safe for foreigners, recent sexual assaults and killings of foreign tourists have prompted embassies to issue warnings and have led to fears among Thai officials that the country's attractiveness as a tourist destination could suffer. Tourism is the biggest earner of foreign exchange for Thailand, bringing in more than $16 billion last year, accounting for as much as 6 percent of gross domestic product and generating the most jobs of any industry.

Last week, the police arrested a 31-year-old laborer in the daytime stabbing death March 15 of a Swedish tourist, Hanna Backlund, 27, on a secluded beach in Phuket, one of the country's leading resort areas. The laborer, Akaradech Tangae, told the police that he had tried to rape Backlund but that "she resisted and I had to kill her," Reuters reported.

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

The killing of Backlund was not the only incident of violence involving foreigners to make the news in recent days. On Saturday, a 24-year-old Indian tourist was stabbed to death while trying to break up a fight during the popular Full Moon party on Koh Phangan island.

On Sunday, The Bangkok Post reported that the police had admitted failure in their investigation of the widely publicized killing in 2000 of Kirsty Jones, 24, a British backpacker who was strangled to death in a guest house in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

"The murders come as a wake-up call for the authorities, who seem to show no concern about the shortage of investment in the tourism industry or the political will to improve the safety of tourists," the newspaper said.

More than 14 million tourists visited Thailand last year, by an official count, and the number of arrivals continues to climb. But Thai tourism is an industry built on image - beaches, temples, elephants, smiles - and to threaten that image is considered a serious offense.

When two fishermen were arrested in January 2006 for the rape and killing of a young British woman at Koh Samui, another of the country's leading resorts, the prime minister at the time, Thaksin Shinawatra, all but ordered their executions. "They have done huge damage to the country," he said.

After receiving a death sentence just two weeks later, one of the men, Wichai Sonkhaoyai, 24, seemed to see his crime in the same light. "I apologize for ruining the country's image," he said.

Tourist arrivals in Thailand can fall quickly, as they have in response to reports of bird flu, SARS and terrorist activity elsewhere in the region. The most notable setback in recent years was the tsunami of December 2004, which took the lives of more than 5,000 foreigners, mostly in and around Phuket. After each of these blows, tourism has recovered and resumed its growth.

But two continuing problems have drawn travel warnings from foreign governments: a violent Muslim separatist insurgency in the southern provinces, and the danger of violent crime and sexual assault.

On Tuesday, the State Department urged Americans to postpone travel to southern Thailand after a bomb attack on a hotel that is popular with foreigners. Two people were killed and 14 wounded.

The travel warnings about assaults address themselves particularly to women. "We continue to receive reports of sexual offenses committed against foreign women and men," the British Embassy warns on its Web site. "Female travelers in particular should maintain a high state of personal awareness during their time in Thailand."

Two other British women were raped in separate incidents in January 2006, the same month the woman was killed on Koh Samui island, the warning noted.

Several killings of tourists have been reported in a little more than a year. In February 2007, two Russian women were shot to death while sitting in beach chairs at the popular beach resort of Pattaya. A 24-year-old laborer confessed to that crime, saying he had intended only to rob the women but "had to shoot them as they were yelling and screaming."

A 32-year-old Israeli tourist was stabbed to death during the Full Moon festival in Koh Phangan last April. A gang of teenagers, including the son of a local politician, are the chief suspects. In November, a 27-year-old Japanese woman was robbed and stabbed to death while visiting the ancient Thai capital of Sukhothai during the Loy Krathong water festival. The police say they are still investigating that killing.

In January, a Canadian tourist was shot to death and his wife wounded in the early morning outside a pub in the northern city of Mae Hong Son. A policeman confessed to the shooting, but said he had acted in self-defense when the couple assaulted him.

The Swedish tourist, Backlund, was stabbed to death while walking alone on a secluded beach far from residential areas. A police officer described the suspect as a peeping Tom who "loves to bring friends to this remote and quiet beach to look at naked tourists."

The Phuket governor, Nilan Gallayanamit, promised to increase security. "This case has really hurt Phuket's reputation," he said.

Source: International Herald Tribune

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Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police:

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

It's an utter scandal what this @ssXc#@ said.... :o:D :D

LaoPo

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Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police:

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

It's an utter scandal what this @ssXc#@ said.... :D:D:D

LaoPo

i'd like to ask "Mohhamed" for an opinion first :o

Edited by dee123

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In one of the Bangkok Post's other pieces they described the attacker as some

kind of "wayward sea gypsie" I'm surprised they didn't immediately come out

and insinuate he might be Burmese. You really want to give them the benefit

of the doubt but then they inevitably have to stick a little "spin" in there and

it really is distasteful. I was initially impressed with the quick Police work but

then they have to go a blame the victim because she was holidaying in Thailand.

I mean Thai girls often wear next to nothing in the wardrobe area, with this logic

we can explain any assaults they might have to endure as well.

Edited by cali4995

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Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police:

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

It's an utter scandal what this @ssXc#@ said.... :o:D:D

LaoPo

We in the west have disposed of any sense of responsibility. At the end of the day, we are all animals put on this planet to breed. You seem to expect that in other parts of the world from the usa people may see the removal of clothes and the exposure of sexual organs as anything other than sexual. If I waved my willy about on Patong beach I would be a child molester and criminal. If a woman exposes herself it seems to be a matter of "personal choice" and everybody elses fault around her if that is a problem.

What the hel_l else could exposure of the body be expected to bring about other than a stimualtion of the sexual organs of the viewer?

Would you have the same sypathy for me if I wandered round Sukhumvit road with 1,000,000 baht in notes strung round my neck in a chain and somebody robbed me.

This is a tragic and dispicable crime by any standards, but attacking Thais for suggesting that their opinions on the matter make them arseholeels if they don;t entirely correspond with westen thinking is a distraction from the crime.

This is not the US, and the populace are pretty conservative here. That inculdes many in the expat community, contrary to the opinions of some. Some people are entitled to their view that not exposing sexual organs may reduce the risk of exciting some wierdo (note, I did say wierdo!) and reduce the risk of the crime.

Can I call you an arsehollee on here if I disagree with something you say? Thought not! So don't try and come back at me saying I am excusing rape and any other standard responses you have to people of different opinions.

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Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police:

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

It's an utter scandal what this @ssXc#@ said.... :o:D :D

LaoPo

You are absolutely right LP. As long as this clown is in charge of the Tourist Police, nothing is going to get better. In most countries a cynical statement like this would be enough to get someone sacked. In Thailand, it only gets you a shrug of the shoulders. I really think a shrug of the shoulders should replace the wai as the national gesture.

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Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police:

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

It's an utter scandal what this @ssXc#@ said.... :D :D :D

LaoPo

The bloke is a tool pure and simple, and if a senior law enforcement officer :o has these sort of views it really is pretty sad. Shame on him. :D

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Maybe its time to loosen up the tourist visa and visa runner rules to welcome back the huge pool of people who really love Thailand, no matter what (good press, bad press, shirt press), who the Thai authorities given their special talent at killing the goose that laid the you know what ...

At the very least. how about lowering the retirement visa requirement to 30 or 40?

Edited by Jingthing

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I agree with Dupont. These are horrible inexcusable crimes but people should do all they can to protect themselves from being victims. You can take the sergeants advice or you can chose to be offended and put yourself at greater risk while saving your personal righteousness but maybe not your life. Unfortunately deep down we are still mostly animals. Anything you can do to prevent the animal response should be considered when you are unfamiliar places.

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Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police:

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

It's an utter scandal what this @ssXc#@ said.... :D:D:D

LaoPo

We in the west have disposed of any sense of responsibility. At the end of the day, we are all animals put on this planet to breed. You seem to expect that in other parts of the world from the usa people may see the removal of clothes and the exposure of sexual organs as anything other than sexual. If I waved my willy about on Patong beach I would be a child molester and criminal. If a woman exposes herself it seems to be a matter of "personal choice" and everybody elses fault around her if that is a problem.

What the hel_l else could exposure of the body be expected to bring about other than a stimualtion of the sexual organs of the viewer?

Would you have the same sypathy for me if I wandered round Sukhumvit road with 1,000,000 baht in notes strung round my neck in a chain and somebody robbed me.

This is a tragic and dispicable crime by any standards, but attacking Thais for suggesting that their opinions on the matter make them arseholeels if they don;t entirely correspond with westen thinking is a distraction from the crime.

This is not the US, and the populace are pretty conservative here. That inculdes many in the expat community, contrary to the opinions of some. Some people are entitled to their view that not exposing sexual organs may reduce the risk of exciting some wierdo (note, I did say wierdo!) and reduce the risk of the crime.

Can I call you an arsehollee on here if I disagree with something you say? Thought not! So don't try and come back at me saying I am excusing rape and any other standard responses you have to people of different opinions.

:D :D

Maybe you should join the Thai tourism Police.

And, if you're on, you might as well suggest to Mr. Choochart Suwannakom to have fliers printed and send them by -urgent- airmail and by the millions to the various inbound tourist countries with explicit beach dressing codes for women... :o

Rape and murder will end overnight...right ?

Would you prefer this ?

post-13995-1206320635_thumb.jpg

I think you should try and learn to read better !

These phrases are disgusting "He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves." & ""They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike.

Now, I challenge you, Sir, WHERE you have seen (Farang) girls/women in Thailand who take off their bikini's to sunbath nud_e, enabling attackers to strike (read: rape and murder them).

:D

LaoPo

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Choochart Suwannakom, commander of the national Tourist Police:

Choochart played down the recent killings, saying, "I believe security in Thailand is better than in many other countries." He also said that some of the attacks were occasioned by the behavior of the women themselves. Under a front-page photograph of a Western woman in a skimpy bikini, The Bangkok Post quoted Choochart as saying, "They tend to choose a quiet spot away from other people, take off the bikini and sunbathe. That's when the attackers strike."

It's an utter scandal what this @ssXc#@ said.... :o:D:D

LaoPo

We in the west have disposed of any sense of responsibility. At the end of the day, we are all animals put on this planet to breed. You seem to expect that in other parts of the world from the usa people may see the removal of clothes and the exposure of sexual organs as anything other than sexual. If I waved my willy about on Patong beach I would be a child molester and criminal. If a woman exposes herself it seems to be a matter of "personal choice" and everybody elses fault around her if that is a problem.

What the hel_l else could exposure of the body be expected to bring about other than a stimualtion of the sexual organs of the viewer?

Would you have the same sypathy for me if I wandered round Sukhumvit road with 1,000,000 baht in notes strung round my neck in a chain and somebody robbed me.

This is a tragic and dispicable crime by any standards, but attacking Thais for suggesting that their opinions on the matter make them arseholeels if they don;t entirely correspond with westen thinking is a distraction from the crime.

This is not the US, and the populace are pretty conservative here. That inculdes many in the expat community, contrary to the opinions of some. Some people are entitled to their view that not exposing sexual organs may reduce the risk of exciting some wierdo (note, I did say wierdo!) and reduce the risk of the crime.

Can I call you an arsehollee on here if I disagree with something you say? Thought not! So don't try and come back at me saying I am excusing rape and any other standard responses you have to people of different opinions.

The she was asking for it idea doesn't wash any more. Crimes like these are terrible, and until Thai culture allows empowerment of women, Thai men will continue to be tittilated by the merest sign of flesh. As for wearing a bikini on a beach sunbathing, I believe it stimulates melanin.

Men in swimsuits don't spark gay rape, so obviously the idea that believing that the sign of a woman in bikini somehow sparking rape shows it is more associated with power and domination.

This so called conservative culture freely accepts rape of wifes', underage sex as long as it leads to marriage, the idea that sex with young girls promotes longevity, sexploitation, mia nois, the concept of daughters being the property of parents and all the other caveats that come with Thailand. This country is not conservative.

I am sure that the clothes police will be out in force for Songkran, wouldn't it be better to educate the impulsive and permissive males of this country at a young age to respect women better?

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I would like to make a further comment to mr. dupont since he agrees more or less with the commander of tourist Police with his disgusting comments towards Farang women and the way they dress, on the beach.

Thailand receive some 14 Million tourists/year and unfortunately has seen rapes, murders and other horrible cases lately which, also unfortunate, attracted a lot of negative publicity, worldwide and right so.

BUT: France, Spain and Italy have some 80 - 60 and 40 MILLION tourists per year respectively.

Now, do you think those countries have the same 'type' of rapes and murders (in equally % of numbers) as Thailand has if some horny guys see -under-dressed girls on the beaches ? I don't know where you're from but I could take you to some beaches in Europe....

NO.

It has -also- to do with the responsibility of the Thai Government, education of the male-population and adaption to the behavior of inbound tourists as well as a certain kind of higher civilization in the afore mentioned three countries.

Of course (attempted) rape does occur in those countries also but 'followed' by murder in far, far less cases than Thailand and it will certainly not be excused by Tourist authorities like the nut head from the Thai Tourist Police :D

What a jerck (sp!) :o

LaoPo

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This is very typical Thai behavour, blame someone else!!!

As suggested above, this is a load of rubbish, and if a UK or US police mentioned it was the victims fault they would be sacked! dont the police here a press office to screen and advise before these idiots quote in newspapers?

Could you imagine for example a black youth in the UK getting murdered in London, and the chief of police quoting that it was the VICTIMS fault for being black and you cannot blame the attacker ect ect ect... well it just wouldnt happen!

You need to solve the problems from the route!, alot of the cheif of police here and tourist stations really need outside training.... they need to be taught proper police work ect.......

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The policeman is advising woman to be careful if sunbathing topless in a deserted place.

Thai visa members think that his advice should get him sacked, have I got that right?

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lao po

It has -also- to do with the responsibility of the Thai Government, education of the male-population and adaption to the behavior of inbound tourists as well as a certain kind of higher civilization in the afore mentioned three countries.

tourists are advised not to walk around wearing thick gold chains around their necks , if they do they are likely to be targeted by opportunist thieves.

when such robberies occur , the victim is often blamed for bringing the attack upon themselves.

the same care should be taken by women with their dress , they are not on the french riviera here.

nobody is blaming the victims here , its just the application of common sense , and an understanding of seeing things through thai eyes and not western eyes.

opportunist attackers do frequent these areas , and its a fact of thai life that western women are seen as sexually liberated by some thai men. those are facts , and its no good expecting the males to suddenly start to think and act like westerners , perhaps we should be thinking more like thais when in these situations , and taking the necessary precautions.

thai women , for the most part take great care when in remote areas , they wouldnt go alone , and they wouldnt dress in a way that would appear provocative to the local males , they know the possibilities of what may happen , they read about it daily in the thai press.

yes, attitudes towards western women in swimsuits should change towards the more respectful attitudes of the west , but until then , visitors need to be aware of how they are seen by locals , especially when alone with unsophisticated people.

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