Rape victim relives nightmare of 2001 train attack

News of the brutal rape and murder of Nong Kaem has opened old wounds for a woman who says she's spent the past 13 years battling to overcome a similar sexual assault which occurred aboard a State Railway of Thailand (SRT) train.

Her rapist was also an SRT employee, and the assault also happened aboard a train from the South to Bangkok. The similarities between the two cases have brought back painful memories.

The woman, whose name has been withheld, now lives in Greece. She says she heard the news from her native Thailand about Nong Kaem's murder on Sunday morning on an SRT train.

In an open letter to the Thai media obtained on Tuesday, she said the Nong Kaem case triggered overwhelming pain from her past memories. She said she fainted and regained consciousness around three hours later.

The pain was still so fresh and unbearable that she struggled to put it into words.

The July 16, 2001 rape case in which she was involved made headlines for its brutality. Today, she says she is still fighting to have the SRT compensate her.

"It happened again? Why wasn't it me who was the last victim? Why that girl? Why?" she asked in the letter.

Beyond her own suffering, she is driven by a desire to urge Thais to do something to improve public safety so it cannot happen again. The victim said the assault 13 years ago destroyed her life, and she still suffers its consequences both physically and emotionally.

Following the media attention which surrounded her case, the victim said she was forced to leave her job because the company's executives thought she was a disgrace to their organisation.

The rape occurred during trip from Sungai Kolok, which she had to make as part of a work assignment.

The victim said she underwent treatment at a psychiatric hospital for several years after experiencing hallucinations and a nervous breakdown. For a long time, she was unable to sleep without medication prescribed by her doctors.

Even with those drugs, she said any incident that might be a minor problem to someone else could easily upset her so badly that her mental symptoms flared up and she ended up fainting.

The victim moved to Greece in the hope of beginning a new life. But she said she is still weak mentally, and prone to triggers which force her mental health issues to resurface.

The news about Nong Kaem's rape and murder was the worst trigger, she said.

In her message for the National Council for Peace and Order chief and the SRT, she begged for tougher penalties for convicted rapists and more stringent law enforcement, which she believed would help curb the number of rape cases.

She expressed her condolences to the family of Nong Kaem, along with this message: "She was at least luckier than I was. I now live a soulless life. I've not slept well ever since and it's still hard to forget."

Her rapist was sentenced to nine years in jail, but the civil suit she filed for 18 million baht in compensation from the SRT remains before the Supreme Court.

The Appeal Court ordered the SRT to pay the victim 4 million baht in compensation, but the state agency has appealed against that ruling.

SRT governor Prapas Chongsanguan said yesterday the SRT had now decided to withdraw its appeal in this case and would pay the 4-million-baht compensation as soon as possible.

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