Monday, April 07, 2008

Thailand's Untouchables

Hat -tip to P B for this story

A Mercedes-Benz was pulled up alongside a city bus, and a young man was having an angry exchange with the bus driver, whom he accused of scraping against his car. The passengers started shouting at the man, who got back into his car and appeared to be about to leave. But instead he accelerated forwards onto the pavement and into the crowd of passengers, crushing several of them under his vehicle. One woman later died, and several other passengers were seriously injured.

The police charged the young man, Kanpitak Pachimsawas, with murder.
But the case very quickly turned into one about class differences, about the perceived arrogance of Thailand's rich, towards the poor . Kanpitak, it turned out, was the 20-year-old son of a former Miss Thailand beauty queen and a wealthy businessman. He was also the nephew of a powerful police officer.

The bus driver reported that his father had arrived at the scene and threatened to use his police connections against the passengers.
"He thinks he has money and a big family name, so he can do things like this to poor people," the bus conductor told reporters at the scene.

Kanpitak's father was unrepentant. Speaking on a TV chat show two days later, he showed more concern for his son than his victims. Responding to the bus conductor's comments he said:
"They are uneducated. That's how they are. They think they are abused, that rich people are bad, that the police are bad. Lower class people have a bad attitude towards police officers and rich people. They hate us and curse us."

Suddenly we were witnessing something you do not see much in Thailand - open class conflict.

Kanpitak Pachimsawas was released on bail and, amazingly, even allowed to continue driving.
On his first day in court he was apparently overcome by nerves and said he was unable to answer any questions. The judge adjourned the case until November. He may never go to prison.

Suchira Insawan, the daughter of the woman he killed , says "Many parts of the Thai bureaucratic system favour rich people. If you are not one of them, you will always be left at the back of the queue."

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