A Briton who was robbed in a hotel in Bangkok says he was told by Thai police to claim on insurance as they were not going to investigate - despite the fact that the thief, a lady boy, was not only caught on CCTV but also left a copy of his ID with reception.
Kevin M (name withheld) was robbed on the first night of a Thai holiday in Thailand. To cap his holiday, shortly before his return home he and his friends were victim of a shakedown by Thai police in Pattaya while riding their hired motorcycles.
The young engineer from Manchester had for a long time been a 'Muay Thai' enthusiast and came to Thailand to find a 'Muay Thai' school.
He arrived on June 6th and checked into City Lodge Hotel in Sukhumvit Soi 19 and that night went out with his friend on the town. They got home in the early hours.
He decided to go out for one more drink and was directed by hotel staff to a mobile bar on the corner of Sukhumvit and Asoke. A 'girl' there kept offering to go back to his room for sex, but he declined, he said. He said he had successfully been fighting/fending women off all night while inspecting a nearby infamous red light area. Eventually, he says, he agreed to a massage at 500Thai baht (just over Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£10)
On returning to the room he gave the 'girl' 500 baht in advance and locked his belongings in his safe, or last least thought he had. He had an unimpressive massage and then asked 'her' to leave. She begged a drink from the hotel mini-bar and he says he must have fallen asleep in the meantime.
On waking up in the morning he found that two credit cards, his mobile phone, and Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£600 cash was missing.
He rushed to reception and eventually found out that staff had not only caught the culprit on television but also had a copy of 'his' ID.
Kevin says he was shocked to find out that his masseuse was a masseur and that he had had a man in his room that night but said he also actually felt relieved that he had not been murdered as he had heard stories like this. It was a salutary first night.
He then rushed to the police station at Lumpini to report the theft, together with a copy of the ladyboy's ID. But police would not accompany him back to his hotel to see the CCTV footage.
He said he found police were not interested in investigating the lady boy but more interested in finding out what he actually did with the lady boy in the bedroom. 'Nothing!' he insisted. Translation of the police report however has him saying that he invited the lady boy back for sex.
(One good reason perhaps never to give a statement to Thai police without a translator. Had he said he had actually done something with the lady boy, from past cases its seems there's a good chance there would be a queue of police lining up to hear the details)
Police, he said, told him there was little they could do. He should make a statement to claim against insurance. 'Can I call the credit card company?' he asked. No. The police did not have this facility.
While this was going an Asian Kevin M with black hair, a strong jaw line, but wearing woman's clothes, turned up at Bliss-Tel on the ground floor of Seacon Square and made purchases totaling over Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£900 (44,000 Baht) I would guess more than half the shop's monthly wage bill. The most expensive mobile phone in stock was about 15,000 baht.
It was a quiet day so I went and spoke to the staff at Bliss-Tel. In fact I gathered all the staff around me. Did you not notice that the lady boy (they seemed to remember the lady boy coming to the store) was using foreign cards? Did you not check the signature? Is this one of the many places where a pin is still not required?
The answers were, yes you have guessed this, No they did not check credit cards or signatures. If it goes through the swipe machine its okay. And of course a PIN number is not required.
'All phone shops have dek (kids) working in them,' was one volunteered comment.
Back in the UK Kevin was told by the bank that his pin was used to make the purchases. The bank was either being dishonest or just assuming that to be the case.
Kevin is not very impressed with his first and possible last visit to Thailand.
'I just seemed to find sleaze poverty and corruption ruining what seemed a lovely country.'
His later Pattaya experience probably helped confirm his own vision of the country.
'In Pattaya three of us were pulled up at a road junction on scooters. I apparently jumped the lights and the other two did not have motorbike licenses. Our keys were confiscated and we were given the option of getting a taxi to the police station to pay a fine, or stepping inside a hut and each paying the office 600 baht in cash, which we opted for. The paperwork was destroyed, our keys given back and we were allowed to ride off (the other two without a bike license).'
Kevin M said he had received a short and blunt Thai lesson.
Meanwhile Nai Ratri, 32, from Nakon Phanom, if in the unlikely event you may wish to turn yourself in please do not hesitate to contact me here, or alternatively nip down to the park and shake up the boys.... maybe they'll settle for a massage.
Police receiving a well-deserved massage in Lumpini Park
Alright. This is not earth shattering news and of course readers will rightly say that this would never have happened if he had not invited clearly what was a sex worker back to his room. I have included it here because actually the chances of police investigating this sort of case are very small. Will the victim still be in the country to testify when the case comes to court? But then again would Lumpini Police pursue a foreigner relentlessly for a similar crime. I have seen a Brit going down for 12 years for less.
The other point is that I often thought, perhaps naively, in these sort of cases that the thief normally had a friendly shop owner to help milk the credit and debit cards in question for a little dividend. What seems apparent it seems is that shops actually do not care about checking for fraud. If the card works in a swipe machine then they will take the money. If its a foreigner's card maybe its all the better, there are less risks involved. The shop staff I spoke to were very matter of fact about it.
If I were the boss of Visa and Mastercard I would blacklist shops where normal security meaures are not adhered to. But I am not of course the boss of these organisations and they of course may have other reasons for not doing so.
Meanwhile Kevin has learned his lesson. No need to bombard with 'what a prat' sort of comments.
Reminder: If your credit credit cards are stolen call your bank/credit card company before you see theThai police. They will not as a rule attend such incidents unless the victim is local and influential. If you want them to investigate a serious bung is probably required and you won't get that back on your travel insurance. A massage from a sex worker at 5 am after a night on the town when your judgment is probably impaired is never a good idea. Sorry, Ed. A massage from a sex worker is never a good idea. Finally read your Government travel advisories and then bear in mind that all their warnings are understated for the reason of not wishing to offend.