Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thailand: Physically Impaired Swedish Tourist, 42, Victimized by Thieves at Rayong Market

Swedish tourist Anna Julin, 42, was visiting a Rayong Market [Star shopping center, Amphur Muang] in her wheelchair earlier today (October 21) when two thieves suddenly snatched her tote bag from her arms, causing her to lose her passport, cellphone, iPad and digital camera. The men then escaped on a motorbike.

Unfortunately for Ms. Julin, the two men befriended her on the pretense of using her cigarette lighter, at which point they grabbed her bag.

COMMENT: Having lived in Thailand for a number of years where I served as the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the US Embassy, I must alert all travelers to the Land of Smiles that larceny, armed robbery, assault, rape and even murder are a way of life in Thailand, where assailants will take a life for someone's property, with little compunction. 

An example of this statement is the murder of Perth travel agent Michelle Smith, 60, who on June 20, 2012, while visiting Phuket with other travel agents, was stabbed to death when she resisted the theft of her handbag. 
Although her two assailants were sentenced to life in prison, that offers little consolation to Ms. Smith's family.

For those foreigners who do travel to Thailand, I strongly DISCOURAGE crime victims from RESISTING a street robbery, as injury or death is often the end-result.

Unfortunately, while the Royal Thai Police wear beautiful uniforms, invariably adorned with countless ribbons, developed world police tactics such as using plainclothes crime suppression teams to interdict crimes before they occur, and particularly before a victim is killed over common property.

In Ms. Julin's case, she fortunately had the presence of mind not resist the larceny and fortuitously the thieves were not armed.

Generally speaking, I advise physically impaired travelers to hire an off-duty concierge from a luxury hotel to accompany them on their shopping and tour excursions so as to reduce the probability of what occurred to Ms. Julin.

Although most tourists cannot think of everything when they've just become a crime victim, one thing all travelers should be focused on is trying to remember the tag numbers of vehicles. 

Had Ms. Julin been able to recall such information, it might well have led to the whereabouts of the thieves, although using false addresses is a frequent occurrence throughout Thailand.   

Rayong  is a city located roughly three hours south of Bangkok by roadway and situated on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand.  It is the capital of Rayong Province. The estimated population is 54,000. The main industry is fishing; it is the main producer of spicy fish sauce. It is also a center for the chemicals and auto industries.  In 2012, Ford Motor Company established an assembly plant in Rayong which now employs 2,200 people.