Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thailand: US Taxi Passenger Stabbed to Death in Bangkok Over 51 Baht Fare Dispute

According to The Associated Press, Bangkok taxi driver Chidchai Utmacha, 32, stabbed an American expat, Troy Lee Pilkington, 51, on Saturday night (July 6)  with a 12-inch machete, reportedly after the American claimed the taxi meter was incorrect and abruptly got out of the taxi and left without paying the driver.

Pilkington got out of the taxi and refused to pay a 51 baht fare (US$1.60), which led to the dispute. 

California-born, Pilkington had lived in Thailand for roughly three years, spoke fluent Thai and held a senior position with the US multinational, Caterpillar, Inc.

Utmacha confessed to pulling a machete from his trunk and attacking Pilkington, but only after the American reportedly confronted him.

COMMENT: Utmacha was arrested at his home over the weekend and charged with killing Pilkington.

The taxi driver told investigators that he picked up Pilkington from a department store and was driving him home, but the American expat claimed the meter was rigged, and then stormed out of the cab while they sat in traffic.

It appears that both Pilkington and Utmacha over-reacted to the sequence of events with tragic results for both men.

Unfortunately, a scant fare of 51 baht is hardly enough for a senior official at Caterpillar to even feel victimized about, yet leaving the taxi without paying the small fare may very well have put into motion a life-altering event for both men.

Escalating conflict might well have been avoided had Pilkington simply paid the fare, an amount hardly worth arguing over.

As for Utmacha, killing someone over 51 baht is hardly justified, particularly considering that Pilkington was unarmed and Utmacha's life was not being threatened.

I have said so often in the past that Thailand is a country where "face" means everything, and where violence is often used to remedy interpersonal conflict far too often.

Consequently, it is essential that foreigners intimately understand the Thai culture and realize that so many disagreements can suddenly emerge into violence, simply because of loss of "face."

See: http://goasia.about.com/od/Customs-and-Traditions/a/Saving-Face

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.