If you have read the news in the last month, I’m sure you won’t have missed the story of the barbaric double murder of two young tourists on the ‘Island Paradise’ of Koh Tao in Thailand, and the ensuing controversial Police investigation.
There are a lot of suspicions flying around social media as to who actually committed this crime, with the subsequent confessions of two Burmese migrant workers universally rejected as being made under duress.
In this first part I would like to clarify why a lot of this hearsay is deemed to be just as credible as any Police files on the case, and why The Police are struggling to appear competent in the face of widespread public scorn. In a second article I will address some of the suspicions that have so far received little or no media coverage.
Thailand conjures up certain iconic imagery for many people I daresay, and you’ve probably heard at sometime or another about the dirty Thai cops. But how much of that is just what you hear from someone, who heard it fromsomeone…and so on ad infinitum.
Here are a few high profile cases from the last 20 years that shed some light on why the Thai Police are held in such low esteem, and bear in mind these are a few amongst many more that have gone unreported (you can’t make this stuff up).
THE RED BULL HEIR:
A few years ago a grandson of the founder of the Red Bull drinks company whilst driving his Ferrari drunk and high on coke at 180kmph through central Bangkok struck and dragged a Policeman a few hundred yards on the bonnet before making his getaway.
The officer lost his life, but here the cops don’t seem to have that brotherhood mentality we associate with the filth. The boy admitted the accident claiming the officer darted out in front of him and was promptly given bail then they dragged out the case investigation for months claiming a lack of evidence and witnesses and when finally a court date was set, the boy was allowed to go to Singapore on the weekend before the trial. He didn’t come back. Wonder how the Cops were remunerated for that one!
KIRSTY JONES RAPE AND MURDER CASE
In 2000 fresh uni graduate Kirsty Jones was raped and murdered in a guest house in Chiangmai, just a few months into a ‘round the world’ trip. The Thai
authorities did what they do best – initially beating a confession from a “Karen” hilltribe tour guide (always pick on the minorities first – they have zero rights in the Land of Smiles) and after that didn’t stick trying to pin it on a series of westerners, including a couple of hapless backpackers and the owner of the guesthouse.
The Police appeared to be plodding and incompetent but word on the ground was that the killer was a well connected person who was being protected while the Police messed up the crime scene, followed false leads and generally obstructed justice. Welsh Police officers apparently have a full DNA profile of the killer but the Thai Police still haven’t managed to catch anyone and to this day the case remains unsolved.
LEO DEL PINTO – MURDER BY POLICEMAN
In 2007 Leo del Pinto and friend who were arguing on the street in Northern Thailand Hippie town Pai were both shot, Leo fatally, at close range by a young drunken Police officer.
Villagers present at the scene were too scared to incriminate the officer and the Police claimed it was all in self defence but after some time the case was revealed for what it was when some witnesses were finally provided protection to speak out. Amazingly, strings were pulled and the shooter was merely reposted to another province and continued his duties as an officer of the law. Sadly a few years later the same policeman pistol-whipped his brand new bride to death and the authorities finally saw fit to send him down.
The very fabric of Thai society is dominated by a patronage system and Thai Politics is host to some very dubious people. At a lower level Thai politicians risk their lives to gain power in their constituencies and the lines between mafia style families, village headmen, local politicians and the Police themselves are blurry at best, non-existent at worst. The Rich, powerful or connected crash through their lives with impunity whilst the poor stagger through it without rights.
CHALERM YOOBAMRUNG – A DUBIOUS POLITICIAN
Since I’ve lived in Thailand (2001-present) Chalerm has been an ever present figure in Thai Politics, closely associated with The Thaksin clan whose dominance over Thai politics during the last decade has been closely linked to the political unrest and riots of recent years. He started his career
working up through the Police force as a great many powerful figures in Thailand have (you need connections? Come up through the police or the army and you get them for life) before venturing into private business and then in 1986, Politics. He was often accused of meddling with the press during his time as a minister in the Prime minister’s office and after the 1991 coup de-tat he was cited in particular as one of the reasons the coup makers acted, being a politician of unusual wealth and assets. He then ran off to Sweden for a couple of years until it was forgotten before returning to politics in the mid 90s (Commonplace for a politician. There is little accountability and folks forget fast although it seems the Internet era should help to improve peoples’ memories).
Then in 2001 the youngest of his 3 thuggish and arrogant sons, an army officer at the time, shot a policeman at point blank range in a pub. He escaped and was sheltered by a high ranking general before fleeing to Malaysia for several months until it all died down. Upon his return he was remanded in custody but was eventually acquitted in 2003 due to insufficient evidence, despite there being several eye-witness testimonies. This son recently provoked more public outrage when in 2012 it was announced he would be starting a new career in the Metropolitan Police.
YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.
These are a handful of examples that I’ve chosen to use, I am not writing an encyclopedia so I’ll stop here. In Thailand, jail is for the poor and unconnected. Prosecution is swift against those without connections and rarely served on those with. Extortion and bribes are all in a day’s work for Plod.
I just read in a Phuket newspaper yesterday the headline – “Russian national found dead in apartment with 7 stab wounds to his neck and torso – Police conclude Suicide”. I kid you not. The Police only work when they have something to gain and paperwork is not something the lazy man is keen to deal with. Thai people have told me that unless you make donations one way or another there is little point in enlisting their help.
In my next article I will try to outline the Koh Tao murder investigation, who the unofficial suspects are and why bringing them to justice may prove to be a long and difficult task!