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No Justice in Thailand

I don’t find Thailand particularly dangerous. If you use just a few grains of common sense, and you aren’t an angry drunk, you will most likely avoid confrontations and major problems. That’s a win in my book. There is crime in Thailand, and gun violence is well on the rise, but that type of violence is contained almost entirely to Thai on Thai. With 23 million tourists coming in per year, many of whom aren’t the least bit sober, it’s inevitable that some foreigners will run into issues. So all in all, I think there are a lot of other places where a foreigner can find trouble a lot easier than in Thailand. It’s important for me to make that positive observation clear, before moving onto an overwhelmingly negative observation – that if a foreigner is a victim in Thailand, he or she doesn’t have a great chance of getting true justice. IF you’ve been in Thailand for a few years or more, you know this is true. I’m not saying that Thailand has a world class police force when it comes to protecting and serving the Thai’s; it’s obviously not up to the standard of most Western countries. But when it comes to foreigners, there is a noticeable decline in the motivation to seek justice, and this does make things more dangerous than they need to be. If Thai’s think the worst they’ll get for a little “street beating,” is a 500 baht fine, do you think those consequences will deter them from giving a beating if they get into a pesky “face issue” with a foreigner?

Last week, an American man died in his hotel room in Phuket. The way the police initially handled the “investigation” is telling. I’m going to quote a few sentences from the report, which comes from the Phuket News. I’m not taking anything out of context, and we are well past the time for April Fools Jokes. This is not “The Onion,” the Phuket News simply reported what they were told by Thai police. This is REAL! Here are a couple of excerpts:

There was a large patch of blood on the sheets of the bed, and on the dead man’s arms. A scarf was tied around his right ankle.
Although investigators tend to believe his death probably came about because of the asthma, they are also examining the possibility that there may have been a sexual angle, and they took security footage from the guesthouse to check for visitors to his room.

There really wasn’t much more in the article, which you can read here -->>. The only other details provided, included that the man had asthma medication and a picture of him with another man. So the key line here is “Although investigators tend to believe his death probably came about because of the asthma.” This tells us all we need to know about the future of this investigation, or the lack there of. Having been here long enough, I can tell you that it is highly unlikely that we ever hear more of this story. It will simply be ruled “death by asthma,” and the fact that he was bleeding out, will just be written off as, “well that was a bit suspicious but….still it’s clearly the asthma.” Why it’s elementary!

Once again, I’d like to remind you that this is A TRUE STORY. If this is the first time you’ve heard of such shenanigans’, you’re probably a bit shocked. But for the regulars around here, you probably find the same mix of dark humor and apathy in the subject, that I usually have. We’re just used to this kind of thing by now. Guys jump off buildings with no suicide note, and with witnesses claiming there was someone else in the room – SUICIDE…but of course, Elementary.

Once in a blue moon, the Thai perpetrator in a crime involving a foreign victim is apprehended. It usually doesn’t come as a result of CSI style detective work; I can assure you of that. But sometimes the perpetrators come forward, or practically leave a trail of bread crumbs from the scene of the crime back to their condo. It’s these cases that make my blood boil. Thai’s often joke around about the standard 500 baht fine for the crime of assaulting a foreigner on a Tuesday.. They find it funny, and I would too, if it weren’t actually true sometimes. Worse yet, sometimes they also have to “Say Sorry,” in addition to their fine.

I must admit, I don’t have any factual evidence to back up this very popular theory, that foreigners don’t get the same level of justice as Thai’s do in Thailand. And that is part of the problem; there are no facts or stats, because there hasn’t been any investigative journalism on the topic. Ask any regular Thai or any foreigner who has stayed here long enough, and they’ll all tell you that what I’m saying is true. So shouldn’t some organization with resources actually investigate this? When most of these crimes occur, it makes the paper, but whether anyone is ever caught or whether the investigation even commences, that is not something we find out. Worse yet, when someone is apprehended, we rarely hear about the actual consequences they meet. How hard would it be for a small team of investigative journalists to track the conclusion of a pool of crimes with foreign victims and compare them to a pool of similar crimes with Thai victims? If an actual study was done like that, it could actually accomplish something! If there is an actual study with facts, proving that Thai’s face harsher consequences when they harm a Thai than they do when they harm a foreigner, this is something that the government would have no choice but to address. And that would make things safer, and they’d get even more tourists coming in; WIN – WIN!

All we want is: Justice for All. I mean there has to be something to that, right? Otherwise Metallica wouldn’t have named their album after the concept, and a decent Al Pacino movie would never have come out. But I don’t understand how, in this day and age, this concept is laughable here. If a crime is committed by a Thai, in which there is a foreign victim – why on God’s green Earth would he/she get a more lenient sentence than if the victim was Thai? How could anyone accept that this goes on? Well, I guess in me laughing some of these stories off in the past, I was guilty of accepting it myself. But, by writing this today, I’m trying to do my part. Thai’s should know that if there is no “equal justice” for foreigners in Thailand, fewer tourists will come here. If only we can get that message to the Chinese and to the Russians, then there might actually be some truth to that statement!

As a parting shot, I expect to get the “Thailand can do no wrong crowd” on this topic to remind me of how lucky I am to get to breathe Thai air, since I’m not actually Thai. Look, I have an entire website that promotes Thailand, so I’m sure my contribution to Thailand is at a net positive for tourists entering the country. Spare me the, “If you don’t like it go the F back home spiel.” The funny thing is, its foreigners who would say that, not Thais! I’m allowed to enjoy Thailand, love Thailand, live in Thailand etc., while still having an issue here and there. If we can accept that the subject of this post is true, there should be no debate about whether or not it needs to change. If you care about fairness, safety, and your general well being, you should be on my side about this topic. If you’re not on my side about this, you’re on the side of corruption and you’re against justice – good luck with that.

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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

2 Responses to No Justice in Thailand

  1. Nigel June 2, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    mai pen rai

  2. Sean June 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    I really don’t think it is much of a foreigner/Thai issue. If you’re a Thai person, and lack the money or connections then you have just as much chance of getting screwed over. There are loads of instances of police shooting people who could turn out to be embarrassing, taking advantage of young girls they’ve arrested, and of course demanding protection money out of everybody they can find.

    The big difference for us is that there’s a lot of pressure on them not to catch Thai people for killing Westerners as it’s bad for tourism. If they can blame it on another white guy, that’s fine!

    I’ve had to deal with the police a couple of times here and always found them to do a much better job than I expected. What they really didn’t want was to be bothered too much, which I could kind of relate to…

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