Thai Police in Chiang Mai have arrested an ex-convict and his girlfriend on suspicion of assaulting, robbing and seriously injuring Chinese tourist Liu Siew Hong, 36, at the city's famous Wat Chedi Luang on January 25, an attack that prompted China to warn its citizens to avoid traveling there.
The two suspects, Natthapong Chaithep, 19, and his girlfriend, Net-amporn Insao, 21, were brought by police to re-enact the crime at the Wat yesterday (February 10) while Chiang Mai Governor ML Panadda Diskul and the Chinese consul-general in Chiang Mai were present.
Natthapong confessed that he, his girlfriend and another friend had robbed and attacked tourists walking alone some 20 times in the past two months in order to obtain money to buy drugs and go club-hopping.
Typical of many tourists to Thailand, Ms. Liu visited the Wat in order to watch monks perform their morning prayers. At that time, the two assailants, traveling on a motorbike approached her and one of them hit her on the head with a wooden club before stealing 1,500 yuan, 200 Hong Kong dollars and Bt5,000 in cash, amounting to about Bt13,150 (US$426) in all. The tourist was seriously injured and hospitalized for a week.
Natthapong, who was jailed in 2010 for robbery and released under a Royal pardon two months ago, was caught committing the attack on a security camera. An investigation led police to search Natthapong's dorm where they found both assailants along with the club, the brown jacket he wore on the day and the motorbike used in the crime.
COMMENT: The robbery prompted the Chinese Consulate to issue a warning on its website that Chiang Mai was a dangerous city that Chinese people should avoid unless absolutely necessary.
The Chinese Consul-General said they would not cancel the warning, but would announce that police had arrested the assailants and that Thai authorities were serious about solving the crime. He said the warning did not prohibit tourists from visiting Chiang Mai, but urged them to be cautious. He also urged Thai authorities to provide more security at tourist attractions.
Foreign travelers are urged to avoid carrying large sums of money with them when visiting developing countries, particularly countries such as Thailand where the victimization of tourists is particularly high. Alternatively, using an ATM card is preferred, so that travelers can withdraw small amounts of cash as needed.
Additionally, all foreign travelers should obtain international medical treatment and evacuation coverage in the event they are injured or become sick while traveling, as most clinics and hospitals demand payment in advance for treatment.