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Sunday, 13 January 2008

10 per cent of all murders of Britons abroad are committed in Thailand


On any given day, tens of thousands of prostitutes can be seen working the brothels, bars, streets, hotel lobbies, beach fronts and even shopping malls of this gaudy city. Pattaya is also the focus for high levels of criminal activity involving international gangs from Russia, Germany, the UK and China. The number of deaths of British nationals' in Pattaya is hard to ascertain – though some sources claim that it is up to four every week, neither the FCO nor the Thai authorities have any data they are prepared to release. However, what can be speculated with some confidence is that of the 226 average annual deaths of British citizens in Thailand recorded by the FCO, a large percentage are in Pattaya. (The FCO refuse to list causes of deaths, so we must also speculate as to the reasons for this morbid hotspot. Anecdotal evidence suggests straightforward causes of death for some, such as road accidents and health problems; then there are the suspicious-sounding "suicides" – jumping from balconies seems to be a favoured method.)
Toby Charnaud, brutally slain by his Thai wife. Now, his family want to know why our Government is so reluctant to warn that Thialand is one of the most dangerous places on earth for its British residents 17 Britons have been murdered in Thailand since 2003
Toby Charnaud, an English expat living in the upmarket beach resort of Hua Hin, Thailand. On 27 March 2005, Charnaud was murdered in horrific circumstances. The 41-year-old was lured into the house near Hua Hin that he had bought for his Thai ex-wife, Panadda Laoruang, to live in. There, after a home-made gun failed to kill him, three men hired by Laoruang beat him to death with a heavy object. His body was partially cremated in a fire pit, cut into small pieces and scattered around a nearby forest Somsak Papai and Wisunt Samaksri were arrested in connection with Toby Charnaud's murder .On average, about 50 civilian UK nationals are murdered around the world each year This means that almost 10 per cent of all murders of Britons abroad are committed in Thailand , given that Thailand comprises only 0.6 per cent of all foreign travel from UK shores.
The murder rate is perhaps surprising; of the 420,000 annual British travellers to Thailand, a tiny percentage are the victims of crime.
Yet its dark side is quite visible. Hua Hin, where Charnaud lived and worked, is one of Thailand's most relaxed resorts, located 150 miles south of Bangkok. Long a getaway for Thai royalty, who have attracted a whole section of the Thai elite in their wake, it has a smattering of seedy bars, but the town is a picture of innocence compared with Pattaya, 150 miles north across the Gulf of Thailand. It is here that the country's less-welcome foreign visitors encounter the darker, more dangerous reaches of Thai culture; it is here that Thailand's huge sex industry has its epicentre.
At present FCO information regarding deaths in Thailand is limited. Andy Pearce, the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Bangkok, admits that the murder rate of Britons resident in Thailand is about the same as the domestic Thai rate – roughly five times higher than in the UK – but adds that this is only an estimate. (There are thought to be about 50,000 British resident in the country at present.) "To create the kind of advice needed on murder rates would require a greater statistical base and more research," he says.

In early 2006, just after the brutal rape and murder of the young British backpacker Katherine Horton on a deserted Koh Samui beach, and following an 18-month period in which nine Britons were murdered, the FCO had a revealing internal debate about what safety advice they should give to British nationals travelling to Thailand, as an email obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act testifies: "The trouble with [giving advice about the murder rate]... is that it would effectively highlight the number of murders over the past year or more here, which in the current circumstances could have a disproportionate impact on Thailand's reputation and legitimate commercial interests."
No amount of number-crunching by the officials at the British Embassy could have saved Charnaud. While his end was brutal, the reasons for it were never genuinely clear. "The only thing we know is that she killed him for financial reasons," says Hannah. "Som [who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder, along with three accomplices in a Thai courtroom in September 2006] thought she could get Toby's money through their son, Daniel. But she was never going to get a penny." "It has been an horrific time for us all," adds Martha, "but the family hasn't fallen apart." (Daniel is now living happily in the UK with family members.)
Yet Charnaud's family believe British officials in Thailand could have done a lot more to assist them, something that led to their local MP, James Gray, asking questions in Parliament in 2006. "In direct contrast to the Thais, who handled the whole thing very well, at every step our embassy was insensitive, ineffective and incompetent," says Hannah. "When Toby's remains were found they sent us a short email, complete with graphic details. This was done after they had spoken to the press. They offered help with DNA testing and then made that extremely difficult."

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