I am an American holidaying/living in Bangkok for the past 7 years. I have read all 5 pages of comments up until this Post of my own and I hope to cover everything to the best of my recollection. I will start off and say that in my 7 years of being in Thailand I have had numerous encounters and challenges regarding the Taxis here. I have learned to adapt to the cultures, traditions and standards of the Thai people and I'm still learning everyday.
*****THIS INCIDENT*****Based on the facts provided in the article, taxi driver statements, witness statements and video footage, this is what I conclude…
[FIRST] I don't know where "opposite the Bang Na department store" is, however, if he was picked up opposite I assume he had positioned himself on the side of sukhumvit in which he needed to travel. So 51baht from that pick-up to Soi 68, where his body was found is very realistic.
[SECOND] It's quite believable at that point and time, blocks before a BTS station that you would hit traffic at a standstill. An exchange of words took place and the victim exited the the taxi, angry, walking in the same direction. The driver leaned over/rolled down the pax window in an effort to collect the meter amount, another verbal exchange ensued involving the throwing of an empty coffee cup, the victim continued walking away, not posing a threat.
[THIRD] Driver admits he retrieved a weapon from his trunk with the intent to "threaten" the victim. Obviously the driver would have to run after/behind the victim to catch up to him. The unarmed victim who posed no threat turned around to a quick approaching irate sword wielding taxi driver to defend himself. A struggle ensued, the victim was cut/slashed/stabbed to death and the "panicked" taxi driver fled the scene. The driver then had the presence of mind to discard his bloodied shirt and the murder weapon.
#1 Video shows a long thin silver sword-like weapon at least 24" NOT a machete. NOT 18cm (7")
#2 A sword in his trunk? If you carry a weapon to legally defend yourself for fear of your life, it should be immediately accessible to you. In that LIFE/DEATH moment you won't have the opportunity to retrieve it from a trunk unless YOU intend to be the aggressor.
[MY OPINION] - I don't believe alcohol/drugs (meth) were a factor. I don't believe the driver was taking the long way. I don't believe the meter was tampered with. I think when the driver approached stand still traffic, he made a comment about needing more baht. I think a seasoned foreigner would see where this was going and exit the taxi in a huff for someone attempting to take advantage of him. (As I have done myself) I believe when the driver saw him exit the taxi, he realized he had just better collect what was due by yelling out the left window and be done with it. I believe the victim saw his last opportunity to act out his anger by throwing an empty cup in the open window with some loud expletives. (If it had liquid in it, I don't believe he would have thrown it) I believe the driver "LOST FACE" and reacted by whatever means he felt necessary to regain "FACE".
[THAI CULTURE] We all know/learn quickly what "FACE" is & what it means to a Thai if they lose it. It's standard & understood as a form of respect within Thai culture. Land of smiles, non-violent religion, mere ignorance or being a foreigner with a big wallet will not exclude/exempt you from the consequences of not respecting thus causing a Thai to lose "FACE". It is culture to smile, laugh & not let them show how they truly feel about you. They are also human, with feelings & emotions. Dare you cross one & you just might find yourself one night, in a dark soi holding your intestines in your arms from falling out of your body.
51 baht ($1.63usd) was NOT the issue. It was a war between ego and face. I am truly saddened by this story as many other people including children are now affected. I am sorry for the victim, his wife, kids and family that he supported and I am also sorry for the driver, his wife, kids and family that he supported. It was senseless.
One last thing, although I am American myself; @ the posting that said everything in Thailand including life is cheap or has little value, I know specific cases in the USA where lives were taken for 30baht or $1usd. This isn't a Thailand,USA or cultural differences issue. This is simple common respect for one another which is becoming a thing of the past. It's happening EVERYWHERE.
I have experienced many challenges of sorts while adjusting and adapting to the Thai way of life. I am open to discuss, share, or give tips and advice and even take tips and advice from others directly ay my email… I_L_M_W@yahoo.com
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I read your article. The title caught my eye. Although I have lived in several cities around the world I grew up in New York City. I share your opinion about saving face causing the death of the American. Nevertheless when you are in a foreign country with no family you need to look out for yourself because you have none else. Sometimes the best words or actions are no words or actions.
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