Monday, September 2, 2013

Thailand: Update--Justice Can Move Slowly for Foreigners Who Make "Bad" Choices Abroad

According to The Phuket Gazette and as a follow-up to my posting of July 31 entitled "Thailand: American Tourist, 51, Stabbed to Death by Musicians, Son Injured," most of our regular readers will recall that police in Krabi had arrested the three Thai musicians who reportedly stabbed to death US tourist  Bobby Ray Carter Jr., 51, and injured his son, Adam 27, when the elder Carter refused to stop singing while the musicians were on break. 

COMMENT: As I have mentioned in the past, justice in Thailand generally moves at a snail's pace, particularly where Thai nationals are the assailants or perpetrators of a crime.

On the other hand,  Judicial delays might very well have been influenced by extenuating circumstances in that Carter's "bad" choices contributed to his own demise, very possibly influenced by too much alcohol.

Even though the crime occurred well over a month ago, the three musicians have yet to be arraigned and all three remain on bail. 

Bobby Ray Carter, Jr. was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived at Krabi Hospital. Adam Carter, although suffering head injuries and a stab wound stemming from trying to help his father, recovered.

The three band members: Ratikorn Romin, 27, from Phang Nga; Nopanan Yoddecha, 26, from Krabi; and Sathid Somsa, 40, from Bangkok, remained at the scene and were subsequently arrested.

Hours after the alternation and death of Carter the elder, all three musicians acknowledged involvement in the brawl, but denied any intent to kill Carter.

As I have said so often in the past, particularly in light of my six years in living in Thailand and really understanding its culture, Thailand may well be the "Land of Smiles," yet the Thais expect foreigners to comply with their way of doing things and not cause trouble.

Otherwise, the "smiles" can very quickly turn "ugly."

When the dispute first occurred, Bobby Ray Carter knocked over the musicians' tip-box which infuriated the musicians, escalating the provocation. 

According to the musicians, they went outside to avoid a further engagement at which point Bobby Ray Carter followed them and knocked one of the musicians to the ground, which caused the injured musician to strike back with a metal object that happened to be handy, causing Carter to be stabbed in the process.

All three suspects were charged with inflicting bodily harm resulting in death and assault. Since the intervening time, though, the murder charge has been downgraded to manslaughter.

One police official has said that the three suspects have now been charged with causing death by inflicting injury upon the body of another person without intent to cause death.

Also, the weapon that was reportedly used to attack Carter had disappeared, thus resulting in the loss of key forensic evidence. 

To expedite proceedings, Bobby Ray’s son, Adam, was permitted to give his statement to the court on August 5-7 and then return home to Dallas, TX.

Adam’s pre-trial testimony also raised the issue of which translators may be used in documenting evidence, as the suspects refused a translator provided by the US Embassy in Bangkok.

In bringing the case to trial, the public prosecutor explained to the PHUKET GAZETTE that police have 84 days from the day the suspects are presented to the court to actually press formal charges.

Considering that the musician that was struck to the ground by Carter has confessed to his instinctive stabbing of the elder American, it is likely that he can expect a relatively sentence, particularly considering that he has complied with the conditions of his bail. 

If jail time is demanded, the suspects are likely to serve it at Krabi Prison, which incarcerates prisoners who receive sentences of 10 years or less. Prison terms are normally served in the province where the crime was committed.

Although the likelihood of a light sentence for those responsible for Carter's death may not be received well by the Carter family, the reality is that Carter persisted in "spoiling for a fight" even after he was asked to not sing while the musicians were on break.

In fact, the musicians retreated outside the saloon at which point one of them was knocked to the ground by Carter before he was forced into fighting back.

When you're in another country, my suggestion is that you "obey the law, don't get into fights and comply with requests from local nationals." Such conduct usually heads off real trouble and doesn't result in someone dying, as occurred in this case. 

It appears that from the facts available, Carter the elder may very well have played a contributing role in his own death as a result of "victim-precipitated choices that potentially may escalated violence against him."