The brave and shocking letter written by Laura Witheridge, whose younger sister Hannah was murdered with David Miller on Koh Tao in Thailand, has as predicted caused a rumpus in Britain with just about every major media outlet covering the story – from the red tops to the heavies, from Sky to the BBC.
The reaction from Thailand has so far been muted. The Government could keep quiet while continuing to express sympathy – the best course.
It could retaliate with anger and scorn and counter claim, the most common course when it is under accusation, or the authorities could simply say nothing.
The Thai media has remained muted, but it’s early days.
Laura has since muted her letter slightly without giving a reason. The quote from an unnamed Thai saying: ‘Why are you so bothered? You can just go home and make another one,” and other quotes like this have gone. Why? Perhaps she thought they were over the top.
But what she wrote on Facebook, judging by the reaction was not only brave but reflected the unspoken views of thousands.
‘Unspoken?’ The fact is that correspondents in Thailand rarely cover the darker side in Thailand until cases like Hannah come to the fore, and in many ways as a foreign correspondent based out of Thailand for 25 years I was forced to by circumstance coupled with my horror at what was really happening in the crime world in Thailand to tackle it head on myself.
Internet brought changes that meant that I could no longer operate as an independent (freelance) journalist flying the flag of conveniences of ‘The Times’ and ‘London Evening Standard’ for whom I was the accredited correspondent. In journalism to have a realistic income working this way it was always necessary to sell the same story or investigation on several continents.
The net put paid to that.
While foreign correspondents preferred to remain somewhat lofty writing on world issues, which of course I had to as well, and plunging to the depths writing about crime and criminals often to me appeared to be beneath them.
This reminded me of course of the film ‘The Paper’ and in particular a scene where tabloid newspaper exec Henry played by Michael Keaton who. when working on a tabloid in New York is turned down for a job on the ‘New York Sentinel’ (New York Times obviously) which ‘covers the world, replied: “I don’t really f…g care. I don’t live in the f….g world. I live in f…g New York City!’
Though his reply is a bit longer than that.
For all their sins, and there have been many, British tabloids at their best carried out ‘citizen journalism’ and I was in Thailand where lots of Brits were getting shot, clubbed to death, defrauded etc.
Now social media has taken this to the ‘‘enth’’ degree and Laura’s voice is one which can be heard massively because now newspaper and television newsrooms have to watch the social media.
Apart from the severe doubts over the guilt of the two young Burmese for the murders there are other questions that still need to be answered.
Why was Scotland Yard so keen to rubber stamp the Thai Police enquiry? What were the circumstances which led to the Foreign and Commonwealth office
issuing statements ‘from the families’ supporting the Thai Police investigation?
And indeed how could they do that if British police were only in Thailand as observers, had no powers to investigate, and could only draw their conclusions from what Thai police told them?
Or indeed are we being lied to? Did Scotland Yard and Norfolk Police in fact assist? They did after all send a Scenes of Crime officer along.
And, if their findings were so supportive of the Royal Thai Police, why are the Thai police being widely criticized by DNA experts for their atrocious handling of the case?
Of course Scotland Yard has to co-operate with the Thai Police. How else can they nab British villains in Thailand?
But the statement from the families was clearly pushed by advice from the Yard and the FCO was used as the conduit.
|Norfolk Police pictire release – wtth the Witheridges
at coirrt in Samui
Should not actually the British government take a stronger line rather than rely on watered down travel advisories which hardly everybody, not least 23-year-olds ever reads.
Because, as Sue Jones, the mother of Kirsty Jones, who was raped and murdered in Chiang Mai in 2000 says, the fate of Hannah and the reaction of the Thai authorities is all too familiar.
Sue Jones also had to face one of those ‘impromptu’ press conferences. Chiang Mai police ran the investigation into the death of Kirsty.
It started as a shambles and continued in the same vein.
Eventually the Department of Special Investigations had to take it out of the hands of the Thai Police, who, it is widely believed know who the killer was.
Sue Jones was continually reminded not to upset Thai feelings.
Said Sue last night: “It’s the lack of respect and empathy that gets me the most and their disregard for human life, especially white women. We were promised the earth when there. But as soon as we left everything went back to normal“I can completely understand how Laura is feeling. I wonder how David Millers family faired when they were out there.”