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Patong bar scene: Not every Phuket holiday has a happy ending

Phuket's Shocking Rape Secrets Surface Anew

Friday, January 14, 2011
News Analysis

THE knowledge that there could be at least five men on Phuket who probably had non-consensual sex with a British woman in what was once known as a ''gang bang'' should alarm every resident and visitor.

And if the woman had gone ahead and pressed charges, then these excuses for men could more clearly be labelled as rapists.

Phuket's shame is that today it's probably too late to know whether the accused Swedes and Thais committed this heinous crime.

However, Phuketwan has been told that at every stage of the process, the 23-year-old woman was given the opportunity to press charges. More than once, she considered the suggestion of giving police a full statement, but rejected the option on each occasion.

It was her decision, and her decision alone, to fly home within 48 hours of the alleged rape, and she was in the care of consular officials during that time, Phuketwan has been told by reliable sources.

Police in Patong treated the woman with the utmost consideration and professional respect, sources said today, and at no stage was there any suggestion that her lack of a work permit and a current visa was an issue.

As a group, Phuket's honorary consuls are concerned to make sure that visitors and residents are better protected, and a rape crisis centre, separate to police stations, is among the suggestions.

Such a sanctuary, common in some other countries, would give women better hope of a sympathetic hearing, a speedy recovery, and a just outcome.

It's reckoned that for every rape that is reported, there are probably 10 more that go unreported. And it's even more difficult when the victim is a tourist.

Not only can a court case involving rape be a harrowing ordeal, it also consumes time and energy that many women do not have.

Most of them opt to go home, leaving Phuket with the horrible likelihood that there are men in our midst who have gotten away with rape. Some may consider travellers especially soft targets.

Police said today that the British woman appeared to be severely traumatised by the encounter. ''We asked her several times over three days whether she wished to press charges,'' a senior officer said.

''But she knew one of the men quite well, and that made it difficult for her to press charges against him as well as the others.''

The men were waiting in a room when a Swede she knew took her back there after a drunken night out.

''We investigate every alleged rape,'' the officer said. ''But there is only so much we can do.''

The woman was clearly exposed to continuing danger on Phuket and consular officials acceded to her request to fly back to Britain.

In an account of what can happen on Phuket, Australian honorary consul Larry Cunningham told Phuketwan in 2008 that rape attacks on Phuket and in Phi Phi are probably more common than is acknowledged.

Cunningham found one case particularly horrifying: the holiday rape of a young Australian student.

As Cunningham tells it, the young woman came to Phuket with university friends who went out one night on a drinking binge in Patong. The young woman got so drunk that she could not stand up.

Instead of taking her back to their hotel, putting her to bed, then going back to the drinking, a task that would have taken about 20 minutes, her friends loaded her into the back of a tuk-tuk.

''The girl was so drunk she fell over face first in the back of the tuk-tuk, so they took her and sat her beside the driver in the front and said 'Please take her to the hotel. Here's the money for the fare.' Then they went back to partying,'' Cunningham says.

''The tuk-tuk driver took the girl to a secluded area and sexually assaulted her, then dropped her back at the hotel.''

Cunningham says the attitude of the so-called ''friends'' remained disheartening.

What was not reported at the time was that the young woman returned to Phuket with her family, identified the man involved, and went through a court case that saw him jailed for 10 years.

It cost the family $A30,000 to see justice done. With five or more possible rapists free on Phuket's streets, you'd have to say it's a pity that kind of action cannot take place more often.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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People like this will not be able to keep this secret for long, one of the ''men'' will have to boast of their deed and hopefully one of the decent members of our community will get to hear and give up a name for the police to form some sort of case against them or at least keep them under observation. But this is Patong so I guess I'll just have to trust my Rottweiler to protect my girls when they're out and about. The place has gone to pot. Please get it sorted, Mr Mayor.

Posted by Steve on January 15, 2011 05:09

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Whilst having every sympathy for the girl involved, one has to wonder what she was doing in Phuket alone. Was she lured by a classified advert offering 'big money' to work in Bali or Phuket or Sri Lanka? These ads appear not only in the local press but also in European countries asking for young people who speak English, Russian or Scandinavian languages.
It would probably be a good idea to put some sort of stop to this type of advertising as so many naive people are caught out by it, then find themselves far away from home, realising they have been duped and are not in the cheap holiday 'paradise' that they originally thought. I myself have been approached by a Swedish girl time-share tout in Patong who actually told me she had no money left with which to live on. Reluctantly I told her I couldn't help, so gave her 500bt to buy some food. The only sure way to go go about it is to ban the touts from the streets altogether which would help just about everybody.

Posted by Pete on January 15, 2011 09:13

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The girl chose wisely not to go through the Thai courts on this, I'm afraid.

Posted by andrew on January 15, 2011 15:29

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a few years back, didn't the thai officials solve all the problems giving females a whistle? probably be better if thai officials took it serious, put these kind of people behind bars and cut their gonads off.

Posted by john s on January 15, 2011 16:40

Editor Comment:

I gather you're a little extreme when it comes to making the punishment fit the crime, john. Would the same penalty apply for those caught dabbling in prostitution?

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ed.. prostitution illegal/legal for the most is consensual. however i have heard of establishments where the girl has no say. there would be a lot esan families with less money if the law was enforced. i am happily married and don't need to be "dabbling".

Posted by john s on January 15, 2011 18:28

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@John S the rape whistle is used in a lot of countries (western as well). It is one of a number of actions that police use to try to reduce the instances of rape. Not sure how employing different courses of action would show you that the Thai police are not taking this seriously

Posted by Bronson on January 15, 2011 20:19

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To date, all that exists is a woman's allegation. Is there any physical evidence to support the allegations? Considering that there were 6 reported rapes of UK nationals in 2009, the characteristics of this rape are really unique. I don't think this type of crime involving a destitute time share tout illegally in the country has ever been reported before. When is the last time rapists called someone's mum on the other side of the world to demand money but then never made any attempt to collect that money? There are too many questionable aspects of the story to accept it at face value. I am not downplaying the seriousness of sexual assault crimes, however, from time to time, unsubstantiated allegations are made. We owe it to the victims of such crimes to ask questions so that no one need ever hesitate when there are other allegations made. Until there is actual evidence released, i.e. a rape kit confirmation of multiple assaults, I am not accepting the story as is. I am not blaming the claimant, nor am I saying rape doesn't happen. It's just that this case screams out for closer attention.

Posted by Ryan on January 16, 2011 23:50

Editor Comment:

''All that exists is a woman's allegation.'' That's true, but it's also true that rape is not like other crimes, which is why the British Foreign Office treats it differently. The British media accepted the woman's story, told through a friend, as accurate, with few qualifications. Yet the journalist who interviewed the woman's friend in Thailand was very careful to make sure it was reported as an allegation only. The Thai authorities who now say that the reporting of the case in Britain has damaged Thailand's image deserve to have a complaint to Britain's Press Council against the Daily Star or the Daily Mail or both upheld.


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