'Evil man from Krabi' victim speaks out
The maker of one of the most unusual complaints against the Kingdom's judiciary, and his teenage daughter, the woman at the heart of a contentious rape case, speak to 'Spectrum' on the music video's resulting storms of support and protest
'Im trying to pick up my life again, but until justice is served I'm finding it difficult," said the victim of a alleged rape in July, in Ao Nang, Krabi province last week.
"My daughter walked into a trap, made by a clever guy she trusted when he offered to bring her home on his scooter," her father explained.
It is a case that has reverberated around the Kingdom and the world. When the father became dismayed and angry at the suspect's belated arrest and subsequent "easy" release on bail, he created a protest video in black and white, set to a ska beat, in which he sings about bringing justice to the rapist, and he uploaded the four-minute clip to YouTube.
Since Oct 23, Evil Man from Krabi has gathered almost half a million views and considerable momentum, causing tourist numbers in the province to fall and provoking unsympathetic video responses by Krabi police and Tourism Minister Chumphol Silpa-archa saying it couldn't be rape because the victim dined with the suspect _ statements that did more harm than good in terms of repairing the damage the video may have done to Thailand's image abroad, or of assuring tourists that the province is safe.
People have vented outrage on message boards and the opinion and letters pages of websites and publications around the world, but most vocally in Thailand. It is a judicial system where a trial, much less a conviction, is no certainty, and in this case in particular, it seems people wanted to make sure that justice would be served.
THE WOMAN SPEAKS
The 19-year-old woman at the heart of the case spoke to Spectrum from the Netherlands, detailing what brought her to Thailand and how what should have been an idyllic summer trip became a nightmare.
After finishing high school, she said, she wanted to travel and explore a little, and she worked hard to make her trip possible.
"I wanted to visit Thailand because it's known to be a beautiful place and the people are known to be friendly."
She had read several tourist books about the Kingdom and all said Thailand was a safe place for young backpackers, and from internet images Krabi looked like a beautiful place. In hindsight, she said there were details about the province she should have researched more thoroughly.
"I wasn't aware that so many incidents had happened in Ao Nang, or I might have reconsidered my visit. It is good that now people have become aware of the many incidents that often have been covered up, and I hope the authorities will take the necessary actions to increase safety and security for tourists."
Asked if she would advise travellers to avoid Thailand, she said, "Until proactive actions are taken to increase security and safety for visitors and Thai citizens, I would certainly caution people visiting Thailand, and Ao Nang in particular."
The music video has thrown her case into the public eye, provoking statements and counter-statements and public debate, while making healing in private more difficult. She said she hasn't watched the clip herself, as the sight of the rapist's face in it would make her feel ill.
''I have read many comments though. Most of them are very supportive. The fact that most of the comments are from Thai people makes me feel better. I wish this procedure were quicker; the video clip makes this period shorter but more intense.''
She said she didn't need to respond to messages such as those from Mr Chumphol and other officials that try to mitigate the severity of the alleged crime, since the response has already been given by the public _ that they as well as she feel it is wrong to try to defend the indefensible.
''No one should walk away from any crime without justice being served,'' she said. ''I would like to see the criminal being held accountable for his deeds and see him put in jail where he belongs.''
BIRTHDAY TURNED NIGHTMARE
On the evening of July 27, the Dutch model celebrated her 19th birthday at a bar in Ao Nang, Krabi. Her boyfriend retired to the guest house in the early hours, according to depositions, while the young woman continued to celebrate at the Chang Bar and was later offered a ride back to her guesthouse by a Thai tour guide on his motorcycle.
She noticed they were travelling the wrong way and demanded that the driver let her off. Instead she was allegedly brutally beaten by the roadside and raped. She was later found by a Thai family and brought to Krabi Hospital, where she was treated for injuries so severe the staff at first thought she had been in a motorcycle accident. Later she filed charges, identified her attacker as Chumpon Khaonuang and returned home to the Netherlands. Evidence included CCTV footage from the bar, DNA evidence and the suspect's confession to police.
Three days after the crime the suspect's sister offered compensation to the victim's family not to press charges. The suspect wasn't arrested by police until Sept 20, and only briefly before being released again on the same day. The retraction of his confession and the decision to fight the charges meant he could be freed by the Krabi Provincial Court on bail pending a verdict in the trial, expected to take up to another two years.
In the Thai system, police are responsible for investigation, and if the evidence warrants it, the case is forwarded to prosecutors, who are responsible for taking the case to court. A decision on bail also rests with the court. In this case, it is not a certainty that the case will go to trial, and the pace of proceedings has been slow.
Although not uncommon in Thailand, it is unusual for suspected rapists and attackers to be granted bail in Western criminal justice systems, especially with a body of evidence at hand. Not confident that justice would be served in this case, the victim's father, a musician by trade in the Netherlands, composed and filmed Evil Man from Krabi, and posted it on YouTube. The grainy black and white video opens in Thai, explaining the background of the case. The father then stands holding a shotgun and steely expression, singing lyrics of justice: ''Evil man of Krabi, we've got to put him in jail. Evil man of Krabi, we don't accept no bail. They let him free, so he can do it again and again. Don't you feel the pain you put inside my child?''
Hundreds of hits quickly became tens of thousands. Krabi Tourism Association president Ittirat Kinglek said that hotel bookings dropped as a result, with numerous cancellations citing a lack of safety in the province.
An unnamed Krabi police officer posted an eight-and-a-half-minute rambling video reply _ only in Thai _ defending police procedure: ''Someone doesn't just rape out of the blue ... the man and woman go together to have drinks at a bar until closing time, then they go off to do the thing that they do and in the morning a rape is reported.''
He adds, ''Don't believe all the rumours. Don't just hear but listen and think whether these rumours might damage our society. The news that goes out comes from people who benefit from tourism. It's like inflicting a wound on yourself.''
Another four-and-a-half-minute police video, The Truth from Krabi, was posted, but again it offers no English subtitles or determination to combat such crimes, citing a ''misunderstanding of the Thai legal process'' by the father.
Both video responses were removed following myriad posts of outrage.
Tourism Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa also questioned whether the case could be considered rape, quoting provincial tourism police chief, Pol Maj-Gen Loi Ingkhaphairoj: ''The woman had dinner with the Thai suspect and a foreign man. Later, she told the foreign man to return to the hotel before heading off with the suspect.''
Permanent Secretary of the Tourism and Sports Ministry Suwat Sitthilor said the father's video might be blocked in Thailand. He added that a video clip promoting Thailand as a tourism destination would be produced and distributed among ambassadors of many countries, including the Netherlands.
The attempts at face-saving and lack of sympathy by the authorities for an alleged victim of a brutal rape have only raised the profile of the case, with the international spotlight now trained on the Kingdom's criminal justice system and police efficiency.
The story has done much to raise the debate about rape in Thailand and the Thai justice system in such cases.
While the public scrutiny of her case may have made things more difficult for the young woman, she said she looks to the potential positives.
''If my story has served a purpose to raise awareness and will lead to improved safety and security and a better justice system ... I will at least find some comfort in the fact that my story has gone public.''
THE MUSICAL PROTEST THAT RESONATED AROUND THE WORLD
The father of the alleged victim also spoke to Spectrum from Amsterdam about the impetus behind the Evil Man of Krabi video and the resulting firestorm.
How did you get the idea to make a protest in the form of a music video?
I got the idea out of mental pain, anger and frustration. I was so far away from Thailand and dependent on Dutch and Thai authorities. I felt helpless.
I don't have much money or connections, so the only thing I was able to do was write and compose a song, which was directly addressed to the evil man from Krabi. I wanted him to feel the pain and realise the commotion he created in our hearts and minds. I wanted him to become persona non grata, someone who cannot walk free on the street any more. I wanted him to feel that shame.
How did you put it together?
We gathered together with musical friends and everybody volunteered, in playing, recording and filming. The Thai voice is from one of my friends.
Is the video also meant for the Thai justice system?
The video is meant for the suspect and indirectly for the justice system _ I got many reactions from other cases where rapists could get away with it. But if it would have happened in Holland or anywhere in the world, I would have done the same.
It shows you with a shotgun and implies vigilante justice ...
For me it symbolised my anger and my feelings of revenge to bring him to jail.
Were you disappointed by the slow resolution of the case _ slow in apprehending the suspect, now on bail, and no likely resolution in the next year or two?
It is indeed very frustrating. At the time that he surrendered to police I'd almost finished the song.
We were happy, especially my daughter. It's an important part of the healing process when you hear that he [the perpetrator] has been arrested. I thought that this was it, and stopped working on the clip.
But three days later we heard that he was free on bail. We were thrown back in time and had to start all over again. That was for me the last push I needed to finish the clip and put it on YouTube.
Did the family receive offers of money in order to drop the charges?
The sister of the suspect visited my daughter three days after she got out of hospital and offered her a holiday in a resort for her and her boyfriend. For this she would have to withdraw her statement to the court.
Later I heard from the Dutch consul that Krabi police had told him that the sister of the suspect visited the police station and said that she offered my daughter 400,000 baht and that my daughter was considering this offer. Of course this offer was never made to my daughter and it seems to me that it was [intended] to take away the urgency to catch her brother.
Did you expect the responses to the video _ half a million YouTube hits, hundreds of comments and replies by the Krabi police?
Of course I didn't expect it, but a lot of people [could relate to] this case and used it to [express] their own anger and frustration against the police and politicians.
The Krabi police feel attacked in the clip, but I only attacked the attacker. The police actually did what they had to do _ catch the guy and bring him to court. They are free to say what they want.
Was it distressing to hear some attempts, such as from the tourism minister, to shift blame away from the justice system, allude to 'cultural differences' or even to blame the victim?
I don't understand why he says such a thing with the knowledge that the Dutch consul was on the case from the day that it happened. He was at the police station, in the hospital and in the court. I understood that the minister promised our ambassador that he would come in a few days with an acceptable and respectful solution or statement.
I prefer communication between our two governments rather than me reacting to what ministers are saying. But when they heard the song, the government, police and court should have sung: 'Yes my friend, don't worry, we will put this man in jail,' instead of 'No my friend, we're sorry, we will free this man on bail.'
The whole affair is dominating our lives and we look forward to the moment that we can close this road to justice and get back to normal.
Do you have suggestions for tourists or Thai authorities to help prevent such crimes from happening again in the future?
The Thai government should have acted directly, saying: 'We get the point, don't worry, we'll handle this.' Just a statement would be reassuring. Same with the police, if they said, 'OK, we'll take care of it and protect our tourists'. But instead of that they let it go, which basically means the rapist is free to walk down the street. With this knowledge, nobody will let his children travel to Thailand or anywhere else where they deal with it this way.
My daughter walked into a trap, made by a clever guy she trusted when he offered to bring her home on his scooter, back to her boyfriend in the guesthouse. She was an innocent girl, believing in the goodness of people. She didn't go to full moon parties or take drugs _ she is a very talented girl and her destiny is like her father, as a musician.
Crime and punishment
There have been several crimes against foreigners in Thailand in recent years that have instigated public outcry over police attitudes and court procedure.
Kirsty Jones, 23, was raped and strangled to death in a Chiang Mai guesthouse in August, 2000. A police officer in the investigation was quoted as saying that Jones was a probably a willing participant and only objected when her attacker began to have anal sex with her. The perpetrator was never brought to justice.
British backpackers Vanessa Arscott, 24, and Adam Lloyd, 25, were shot and killed in Kanchanaburi on Sept 9, 2004. The police officer charged with the crimes was released on one million baht bail despite compelling evidence and the fact he had fled to Myanmar after the incident. Pol Sgt Somchai Wisetsingh was eventually convicted and sentenced to life.
Canadian John Leo Del Pinto, 23, was murdered and Carly Reisig injured in Pai, Mae Hong Son province, on Jan 6, 2008. The policeman charged with the crimes, Uthai Dechawiwat, was granted bail. A year later he beat his 18-year-old pregnant wife to death with a piece of wood. He was eventually given a 25-year sentence.
EAT, DRINK AND BE WARY: Thais and tourists alike often party to the small hours in outdoor restaurants.