Blurred vision over 'Evil Man from Krabi'

Blurred vision over 'Evil Man from Krabi'

If you have ever wondered why there are so many Top Charoen opticians on Thailand's high streets, I may have the answer for you. It's because Thais suffer from a genetic trait that leaves us extremely short-sighted.

Police made a botched attempt at damage control by releasing a video response to ‘Evil Man from Krabi’ YouTube music video, made by the father of an alleged rape victim.

We have a huge problem with vision. And by that I mean, we don't have any. We deal with today's problems today. But when it comes to tomorrow's problems? Well, we haven't thought that far ahead.

Some of you may have heard of the YouTube clip, "Evil Man from Krabi". If you haven't it's a four-and-a-half-minute music video made by the father of an alleged rape victim. In the video the father claims that the police have mismanaged the case and that authorities allowed "easy" bail for the suspect.

The case itself is ongoing so it's impossible to make a judgement on whether these allegations are true or not so let's avoid that argument for the time being.

Far more interesting is the police's response to the clip which has since been dubbed, "The Truth from Krabi".

Tourism officials initially claimed that the clip had caused irreparable damage to Krabi's tourism industry. Tourism Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa reportedly made some extremely inappropriate remarks about the victim saying how what happened could not be considered rape.

And the police themselves banned the clip in Thailand and then made a botched attempt at damage control by releasing a video response that babbles on about (what I presume to be confidential) details of the case.

Thailand, I think it's time to put your glasses back on.

Let's say, best-case scenario (for the police that is) that they had in fact done everything by the book and that the claims made in "Evil Man from Krabi" are entirely unfounded. Is the best response to attack the victims and claim that they are damaging Thailand's image and probably weren't even raped in the first place?

I think not. And looking at the angry response online, we may just have made things worse.

Thailand is a country that relies heavily on its tourism industry. We have done ever since the 1960s when American soldiers would use Thailand as a rest and relaxation centre during the Vietnam war, and later when cheaper travelling costs, a relatively stable political situation and the development of Bangkok as a hub of international air transportation made Thailand an attractive stopover.

The reality is Thailand's tourism industry was a happy accident. But the dinosaurs that run our country with old-fashioned thinking seem to have forgotten that. The tourists that visit the kingdom are no longer adventurous hippies and pioneering entrepreneurs and we need to handle them accordingly.

Thirty years ago, would this Krabi case have been swept under the rug and gone unnoticed? Would people who heard of the incident have shrugged and said, "Well, you've got to be careful in a place like Thailand?" I think they probably would.

But this isn't 30 years ago. Globalisation has made the world a far more connected place. Cheap travel has opened tourism to the type of traveller who isn't looking for an adventure and expects and feels entitled to (whether rightly so is debatable) a certain level of security when they visit one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Banning YouTube videos and releasing a poorly filmed police response that is aimed at tourists but lacks English subtitles sends out a message that we are out of touch with how the world works.

Instead, it says, "Hey, come to Thailand we'll take your money and smile at you, but when things go bad don't expect any help, our reputation is more important."

This kind of tactic may have worked in a world without the internet, coz hey, who's going to know? But these newfangled interwebs mean that now the world knows what we're up to.

We've all had an argument with someone who just won't accept they're wrong and apologise even when they are clearly at fault. And we all hate that person. Sadly, Thailand is that guy.

Today there is so much more choice out there for travellers. In general, the public has become so much more sophisticated, more able to understand the world around them. You cannot shape public opinion through denial and avoidance. It doesn't work that way. If you could we'd all be holidaying in North Korea.

Instead you shape it by allowing intelligent (and occasionally dumb) discussion. By listening to complaints and being humble when it comes to opposing views. Thailand needs to stop trying to "win" every argument, like inviting President Obama to watch the Futsal World Cup final in order to validate our mistakes.

Once again we have allowed our short-sightedness to blind us from the long game. Tourists won't stop visiting Krabi because of one angry voice (and I'd like to see the proof that they did) but they will avoid it because they perceive oppressive authorities to be bullying rape victims. Ignore complaints and arrest the criminal, offence is the best form of defence.

Arglit Boonyai is Digital Media Editor, Bangkok Post.

Arglit Boonyai

Multimedia Editor

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