Wednesday, August 31, 2011

UPDATE: GERMAN TOURIST IN COMA AFTER ATTACK BY TUK-TUK DRIVERS ON PHUKET

As a follow-up to my posting on August 29, the gang of tuk-tuk drivers who severely beat up a German tourist in Patong are only likely to be brought to justice if Kurt Trotnow, 53, regains full consciousness and is able to identify his assailants. Efforts thus far by Thai police to identify the assailants from security cameras or locate witnesses who can identify the drivers have proved fruitless.

COMMENT: Trotnow remains in the intensive care unit at a Phuket City hospital with his wife Jiraporn ''Joy'' Choochep, 30, at his bedside, hoping for signs of recovery. The couple were married last month and were planning a trip back to Germany on September 7 for an operation for Trotnow pertaining to a blood condition.

According to witnesses, both Trotnow and his wife had been drinking. That being said, a dispute between Trotnow and the tuk-tuk driver began over the driver's demand for 200 baht (US$6.60) instead of the 100 baht (US$3.32) that the couple had negotiated with the driver before they got into the tuk-tuk. It should be noted that a very contentious issue amongst tourists and expats in Phuket concern the common practice of tuk-tuk drivers to demand much more of a fare than that negotiated.

Unfortunately, even if Trotnow regains consciousness and is able to identify his assailants, he may himself face charges if it can proved that he struck the first blow.

Another factor that German honorary consul Dirk Naumann may address is why the Phuket police failed to notify him of all serious incidents involving expats, whether residents or tourists.
Naumann only learned of the assault this week when one of Trotnow's friends visited the German consulate with a copy of the police report filed by Trotnow's wife after the August 25 assault. Other cases involving tuk-tuk drivers and jet-ski operators who scam tourists continue to alarm the honorary consuls.

Exchanges between foreign taxi, tuk-tuk and pedicab drivers and tourists and expats can always problematic when disputes arise over what fare was negotiated for and what demand drivers actually make. In most countries there are few problems, but often there are many in countries where drivers are not well-regulated.

Inasmuch as I have found myself in similar contentious situations in the past (where the driver has demanded much more than the fare negotiated,) I can understand and empathize with Mr. Trotnow's position. Unfortunately, for some people, drinking can influence their ability to make the right choice in a given situation. Given Mr. Trotnow's having been severely beaten up and now being in a coma and semi-conscious, would it have been better to pay the 200 baht and chalk it off as a bad day in the marketplace, or get agitated over $3 and suffer as he has?

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