The September 2014 murders of two young British tourists on the popular island of Koh Tao in Thailand was tragic, but as is so often the case, the real perpetrator(s) may well escape capture and justice. There has been a lot of publicity and criticism of both the new military government and appointed (not elected) Prime Minister as well as the Royal Thai Police. Most of it is justified as corruption in both high and low places is endemic. Law enforcement and the legal system in Thailand have always favoured the rich and well-connected. Money talks. Tourism in Thailand is important too, but not as much as ‘face’ – the saving of which is paramount in Thai as well as other Asian cultures.
In Thailand generally, blame and responsibility for any wrongdoing, even if there is no shadow of doubt on where it lies, must if possible be put on anyone or anything that isn’t Thai. Accidents are caused only by bad luck or bad spirits in the vicinity. If a serious crime is committed against a foreigner, the primary suspect or suspects are other (westerners known as ‘farang’) foreigners. Next in line are other Asians including the many migrant workers, often from nearby Burma or Laos who perform mostly manual labour that is ‘beneath’ Thais.
This state of affairs is of course wrong and often nonsensical, and may even be seen as a bad joke, but it’s the way things are in Thailand and although the new government is making attempts to rectify things, it will take a long time. In spite of this, many foreigners both live in and visit Thailand and love it. The only downside is when something bad happens to them or their friends or family. Then they come down in force at condemnation.
This tragic case is going to be like a lot of others. Someone may be found to ‘confess’ and even re-enact the crime on camera – whether they were the actual perpetrator or not. Punishment will be administered. Justice will be seen (in Thai eyes) to have been served. Cash compensation to victims’ families is more important than the judicial sentence though. Not much of it available if it’s a migrant worker, but generally, the richer the perpetrator, the more will be paid.
Face must be saved.
Update October 3
Three Burmese migrants, two of whom have ‘confessed’ to the killings are now the only suspects. If this turns out to be the truth, then Thai face has been saved. QED and RIP to the victims.
Update 2015 …
This case is a complete shambles. The two accused have since recanted their ‘confession’ which included a staged re-enactment. There is now ‘concern’ by the authorities that they might be contemplating suicide. Why now?
Update 2016 …
The two Burmese labourers were convicted on 24th December 2015 and currently face the death penalty.