First the Royal Marines: - Now retired 'Para' is struck down in Thailand's jet ski war
From ANDREW DRUMMOND , BANGKOK, February 20 2010
A 61-yr-old retired paratrooper from Walsall has become the latest victim in a 'jet ski war' which has claimed hundreds of tourist victims in Thailand.
Last night David Marshall, a former Sergeant in (2 Para) 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, told how he fought off five youths, after he refused to give in to an extortion attempt in the resort of Pattaya, 100 miles east of Bangkok.
He was attacked after Thai thugs tried to pull a well worn tourist scam that their jet ski had been damaged and demanded compensation.
'There were five of them on me. They got in a couple of punches in my eye and mouth, but it took them some time to get me to the ground before they kicked me and ran off. I think I acquitted myself alright' he said.
Added Mr. Marshall, who ran his own construction firm after leaving the Parachute Regiment: 'These 20-30 year olds were a bunch of cowards and a disgrace to Thailand.'
The incident at the weekend follows widespread, threats, some at knifepoint, and extortion of tourists in Thailand's other resort areas of Koh Samui and Phuket . Victims have had to pay up to 1,500 pounds each time.
Last year, on the holiday island Phuket a Group of Royal Marines of 40 Commando from HMS Bulwark faced a gun as a Thai jet-ski hirer extorted over 600 pounds from them, claiming loss of earnings and repair work. The Thai 'enforcer' admitted he had to pay 20% to police.
Royal Marine Police Sergeant Tim Wright described the Thai jet ski boss as 'a two bit swindler' and in the British TV series 'Big Trouble in Thailand' and Marine Policeman Mat Turner went on to describe how men on shore leave were being 'ripped off everywhere, hiring jet-skis, taxis, tuk-tuks'. He said the rip-off were organised 'as if by criminal gangs'.
After orders from the Minister of the Interior Phuket's Governor stepped in and all jet ski businesses were ordered to insure their boats so they need not get the cash back from tourists. Tourists now claim they are being scammed for 'loss of earnings' while the boat is being repaired.
And in one three month period on the island of Koh Samui, consular officials recorded 150 such cases of extortion which included alleged damage to land buggies. The Foreign Office has already issued a Travel Advisory warning of the dangers of renting jet skis in Thailand and warnings are also running on the website TripAdvisor.
Fraudsters, usually working with the co-operation of local police, force high payments out of tourists for alleged damage - on pain of going to jail.
David Marshall was on holiday in Pattaya with his son, Darren, 37, and a friend . They hired three jet skis and they closely examined their jet skis before taking them.
'The day before we had seen a tourist getting scammed. So when we hired them we checked them out very carefully. As we looked at the bottom of Darren's jet ski, the owner must have put his hand over some damage as he held it up.
'When we got back he pointed it out and we said it was definitely not from us and I told them I was having none of that nonsense,' he said.
The attack came as they walked away.
'My face looks like I've been in a car crash, but luckily there's no serious long term damage - apart from a broken tooth'.
David Marshall said that, while he had been to the police once by pre-arrangement, the senior policeman involved had forgotten to turn up. He planned to go again (Monday). 'Apart from this incident we have had a very good holiday.'