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Masked for his protection, a youth appears at Phuket City police station

Phuket's Hoods, Caught With No Place to Hide

Saturday, March 20, 2010
IT'S a conference room and the two boys sit on one side of the U-shaped tables, their faces covered by dark balaclavas. That's apt.

In more than one respect, they are, say Phuket's police, the young hoods who give the island a bad name.

On the uniforms they wear the lettering in Thai says: ''Phuket City Police Station.'' Out of sight beneath the desk, their feet are bare.

Their arms are locked together with handcuffs, the left hand of the 17-year-old linked to the right hand of the 15-year-old. He also wears his own cuffs.

While their identity is protected, their dignity is not. This is a media parade, part of the police show and tell. It happens almost every time there is an arrest of public interest.

The police present their captives, and usually the show is accompanied by a confession. Justice in Thailand often takes this course.

Once under arrest, the game is up, and a quick confession usually wins a reduced sentence.

In this case, the two accused are not allowed to be identified because they are under age, and therefore in the eyes of the law it's possible they may yet redeem themselves and become good citizens.

Phuket police are worried, though, because the economic downturn on the island has brought an increase in violent crime among the young.

It may be true that there are more tourists than ever coming to Phuket. But the social indicators say that there are no new jobs being created, because the tourists are spending less.

Life is hard. So drugs and crime become an attractive option. Police say there were 20 motorcycle-rider attacks in February on Phuket, resulting in 15 arrests.

Phuketwan has heard of other attacks, though, that were not reported to the police, including one where a girl defended herself by punching a knife-wielding attacker in the face.

This is not recommended as a response because it increases the danger. Others who have fought back have died for their bravery. Better to give and live.

The two ''hoods'' in front of us now were both arrested on March 18. The 17-year-old has confessed to five crimes, incidents of the kind that have changed little since the ''stand and deliver'' days of highwaymen on horseback.

The 17-year-old has been accused of four incidents where others were threatened and told at knifepoint to hand over their money. He rejects police accusations that he is guilty of several more.

The 15-year-old faces one count of demanding cash and a mobile telephone. The 17-year-old has a previous history with police, the 15-year-old does not.

This probably explains why the elder boy looks at the camera while his younger companion averts his eyes.

The alleged offences of these two fall short of those of the kick-down criminals on wheels who attack on the open road and, with a well-placed foot, bring down the motorcycles of their prey at speed.

Shane Free, the Phuket diver who was found by the side of a lonely road in a coma, stripped of all his valuables, was probably a victim of this kind of crime last year.

Back in 2008, Jake Carey, 21, and Carly Moorhouse, 17, were kicked into a Patong wall and left for dead. At least one unsolved murder has been committed in this fashion.

What it says about Phuket is that while the motorcycle is wonderfully liberating, the same rules apply when travelling the roads as when travelling on foot: avoid lonely places, avoid travel late at night alone, and go with someone on another machine if possible.

As soon as the photo session is over, the 17-year-old uses his one free hand to pull off the hood. It's the face of a boy.

Comments

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It is sad that people try to justify the actions of these scared little insignificant beings by saying that is due to low tourism or other facts when the fact is that they are low life cowards who threaten reasonable people with violence for nothing more than an easy take.

In a normal place they would be arrested without bail for violence with a weapon and held in custody until they could be tried for all their crimes, not just the ones they admit to.

Posted by Jimmy on March 20, 2010 23:40

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Nice reporting PW

Thanks!

Posted by Sean on March 21, 2010 16:25


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