The trouble with Krabi
published : 12 Nov 2012 at 00:00
newspaper section: News
Officials in Krabi are in the process of proving yet again that a coverup is worse than the crime. They have been busy for almost a week in an attempt to cheapen a YouTube video on law enforcement in their province.
In so doing, police and tourist officials have tried to reverse crime and blame. It is difficult to decide whether the campaign is more tasteless or self-defeating. Either way, it must stop.
The sad and now shocking story began on July 27, in Ao Nang district of Krabi, popular with foreign tourists.
A Dutch woman was admitted for treatment at a hospital. Her injuries were serious and obvious enough that the doctor at first thought she had been in a motorcycle accident. But she said she had been beaten and raped, and the subsequent medical examination confirmed her story.
The woman not only knew the man who allegedly assaulted her, but had been with him at a birthday party before the reported crimes. With the help of the doctor and others, she made a report of rape and battery to police. They accepted it and, nearly two months later, arrested a local man, Chumpon Khaonuan on a charge of rape. He quickly was granted bail by the Krabi court.
The father of the alleged rape victim uploaded a video to YouTube on Oct 23. Entitled "Evil Man from Krabi", the stark black and white video shows a man with a rifle, singing for help "to put the Raperman from Krabi into jail". As propaganda it was effective, going viral and causing dozens, perhaps hundreds of foreign tourists to cancel their planned trips to Krabi last week.
The chief of Krabi province police, Pol Maj Gen Nantadet Yoinual, went to the media to claim the police had done a very good job, and had nothing to do with bail for the tour guide, Mr Chumpol. The head of the provincial tourism office, Wiyada Srirangkul, said the immediate job is to convince tourists that Krabi is safe. Neither of these important government officials had a word of sympathy for the woman, who by all accounts was the victim of a horrific crime. Pol Maj Gen Nantadet said he wants to post his own YouTube video to counter the one posted by the Dutch woman's father.
Ms Wiyada was confident that hotel occupancy would reach 90% next month. And Suwat Sitthilor, permanent secretary of the Tourism and Sports Ministry, said he might recommend that the video, which had more than 325,000 views as of yesterday, be blocked in Thailand by the Information and Communications Technology Ministry.
But it gets worse. Chumphol Silapa-archa, the minister of tourism under two governments, questioned whether the incident could be considered rape. After all, he reasoned, the woman had dined with the accused man.
This is not only crass but illogical. Yes, minister, women are beaten, raped and worse by men they know.
Government officials, right up to the ministerial rank, make Thailand look heartless.
They have essentially tried the tired old trick of turning a rape allegation back on the victim.
The YouTube video was unfortunate, but so was the appearance of police delaying the arrest of a known suspect, and his quick bail.
Officials should join calls to make sure justice is done and seen to be done.