On 28th July 2012, an alleged assault and rape occurred in Krabi against a 19 year old Dutch tourist. According to the Bangkok Post, the suspect was identified as tour guide Chumpol Khaonual. Police arrested him on 20th September but the suspect denied the allegations. Even still, police charged him and he was taken to court. Pol Maj Gen Nantadet said Krabi police had opposed Mr Chumpol’s bail request but the Krabi provincial court gave him temporary release. As the courts around Thailand are often backed up with cases, it could mean as long as a year for this suspect to see his day in court. This is quite normal in Thailand.
Angry with this delay, the father of the rape victim came out with a music video called “Evil Man from Krabi”. It seemed his intention was to highlight the injustice of this case. I think to many his methods seemed a bit strange to put his daughter’s alleged assault and rape to verse. But, he just wanted the publicity so that the case wouldn’t get buried like so many others. Now thanks largely to the efforts of the permanent secretary of the Tourism and Sports Ministry Suwat Sitthilor, his wish for a worldwide stage is coming true. The headline in The Nation newspaper this morning declared “Blocking of Krabi video considered”.
I wasn’t originally going to blog about this subject. I had already tweeted several times about the story. But, the ways things are heading now, this has to be documented. Blocking or banning doesn’t solve anything. It’s like burying your head in the sand. It may be true that no-one in Thailand will be able to see this video, but the rest of the world will see it. And the blocking of the video, if it happens, will just lead to its popularity. And that is exactly what is happening now. Since the news came out that the Tourism Ministry was considering blocking the video, the number of views on youtube has nearly doubled.
What is happening now is that people, who have nothing at all to do with the case, are going on the offensive. They are posting angry remarks against the Krabi police and tourism ministry on social media. They have even posted links to the youtube video on the Krabi TAT Facebook Page. It is almost like an online lynching. The case hasn’t even gone to court and everyone immediately believes that the suspect is guilty. He may very well be, but that is for the courts to decide, not us. I am all for bringing publicity to this case to make sure that it isn’t swept under the carpet. But, let’s don’t have a public lynching.
News about the plan to ban the video wasn’t the only eye-opener in The Nation newspaper today. What was most shocking to me were the quotes in The Nation, purportedly to be coming out of the Tourism Ministry. Now, I have been doing this job long enough to know that quotes in newspapers are not always accurate and are often twisted out of context. I can only say that in this case that I really hope that these quotes are NOT true.
The Nation: Tourism Minister Chumphol Silapa-archa had said earlier that the incident could not be considered rape. He quoted provincial tourism police chief, Pol Maj-General Loi Ingkhaphairoj as saying: “The woman had dinner with the Thai suspect and a foreign man. Later, she told the foreign man to return to the hotel before heading off with the suspect.”
I understand that the tourism ministry are desperately trying to do damage control. Reports from some news agencies have said that “Western tourists have cancelled a large number of hotel bookings and local tourism authorities are complaining that the clip is affecting their earnings” (DPA). TAT Krabi have come out to say that this isn’t true. They said that there is no evidence of mass cancellations in Krabi due to this video. I think it is very doubtful that people are cancelling holidays just because of this video. Maybe some have, but not that many. Not yet anyway. If the politicians in the Tourism Ministry have their way, then a lot more people will hear about this case.
Best advice? Leave damage control up to the experts. You are just making it worse.