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Danger in Paradise – Are Tourists Really Safe in Samui?

Koh Samui property news

Source: The Guardian

Published: 8 April , 2006

When a murder if a young holiday maker in Koh Samui on January of 2006 went public, it seemed like an isolated case. However, plenty of incidents have proven that this is not actually the case. The thing is that there are times on the island when one cannot tell bad people from good people—-when a thick blanket of mist make it difficult to see clearly.

On such as misty day in January 2, 2006 at about 10 am, a corpse was seen in the water. It was later identified to be that of Katherine Horton, a 21 year old tourist that has been missing for quite some time. Horton showed signs of rape and being beaten on Lamai Beach. This hit the news and seemed to place the peaceful atmosphere of Koh Samui on a shaky ground.

The Katherine case was solved very fast and eventually, two local fishermen were arrested and convicted for the murder. The culprits  Wichai Somkhaoyai and Bualoi Posit were given a death sentence the day after the victim’s funeral. Because of how quickly the case has been resolved, the detectives were paid a bonus of £1,500 by the Thai former prime minister (9 February 2001 – 19 September 2006), Thaksin Shinawatra. The murder of Horton prompted a change on the island’s security personnel. CCTV’s were installed and veteran detectives from Bangkok were asked to take the place of Samui’s top police officers. More police stations and police patrols were set up. Within a month, the shock caused by the crime eased out and life returned back to regular on the island. While this may seem like a case that was efficiently addressed, a number of events will reveal a disturbing scenario about the island of Samui.

There are suggestions that the developments that took place in Samui within the last decades have caused a severe tension between the locals and the foreigners. The sudden increase in the volume of tourists who visit the island, as well as the sudden changes in the island’s grounds proved to be an overwhelming thing for the locals. In addition, more and more foreigners have taken over the island, further increasing the rift between the two groups. The tension between the poor and wealthy residents are said to be the reason behind the rise of horrific crimes that happen on the island. Robberies and violence aimed at the tourists have increased alarmingly over the past years. The more disturbing part is that most of these incidents are not publicized in order to protect the image of Koh Samui—which many thinks is an idyllic and peaceful paradise.

Samui Express (Currently “Samui Times”), an English language publication was brave enough to debate the Horton case and reported about another case in which a Thai raped a British woman, Corrie Ann Holt. The case of Colt is in no way connected to the Horton case except that the crimes were kind of similar and took place just three weeks apart from each other. The venues concern two of the island’s neighboring beaches. These connections raised plenty of questions whether or not tourists are actually safe to be on the island. Owners of prominent establishments on the island worked together to make the paper quit publishing news that will potentially harm the scenic image of Koh Samui.

A lengthy crime sheet in Koh Samui’s police headquarters reveals so much more. Based on the information of found on this document, there are plenty of violent acts that took place in Samui but only the Horton case was ever really solved, particularly because it was the only one that has been publicized. The sheet reveals that an Irish lady was raped in October 20, 2005. On December 2005, a British tourist was shot on the leg and on the same night, a local policeman was shot when he attempted to restore the peace at a local pub.

Other cases found on the sheet prior to the Horton case include the beating of a Scottish tourist on December 20005. The same person was accused of rape that he didn’t commit. On January 4, 2006, a 12 year old poor girl was said to have been raped inside the Sila Ngu temple. A number of equally horrendous acts filled the crime sheet. The irony is that, these cases were hidden from the public eye. In fact, it took only a few months for Samui to recover from the Horton case. Three months after the murder, back to normal, tourists are visiting more than ever, and Samui properties are selling like pancakes.

It seems that everything on the island is all about profit. In fact even tourist chiefs could only talk about how the Horton murder cost the island about 150m baht since the number of British tourists reduced by 30%. It’s also disturbing how the local detectives are determined to make light of the murder. After putting up several theories regarding the murder, the local police even falsely accused Callum MacDonald of committing the crime. He was spotted having last meal with Horton before she died so the authorities connected him to the murder. According to him, “No statements were taken. The crime scene was not secured. Then, as one of the only foreigners left, I found myself accused of raping Kath. I couldn’t believe it.”

The new chief district officer, Decha Kungsanun, who is known as the “bulldozer” considered the Horton case to be an embarrassment and believed that the series of crimes that took place on the island are a result of lack of leadership.