A conference was held at Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai, which was themed “Rape and Sexual Assault Survivor Handling Conference”. The conference was supported by the British Embassy Bangkok and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) UK partner, Glasgow & Clyde Rape Crisis Centre.
Thailand is a popular international tourist destination which like any country experiences some incidents involving tourists. This conference was held to highlight problems and disseminate solutions and best practices for the many agencies involved in assisting victims. The focus of the conference, was on rape and sexual assault and how the police, Tourist Assistance Authority, medical staff, consulate staff or counsellor’s respond to victims.
The British Embassy announced that over the past few years there had been over 40 cases of rape of UK nationals in Thailand reported to the Bangkok Embassy, averaging around 15 cases per year. According to The Crime Survey for England and Wales, 83% of rape victims do not report their rape, which means the actual number must be much higher.
The Embassy stressed that Thailand is still a safe destination to travel. According to Derek Johnstone, Vice Consul at British Embassy Bangkok, “The British embassy does not want to portray Thailand as a dangerous country to visit, but that there are victims of crime in all countries, not only in Thailand. The important thing is working with the host country to ensure that any victims are treated sensitively”.
This has meant that the Embassy has had to deal with an increasing number of incidents which has led it to focus on two things; that of informing British tourists of safety and prevention measures as well as taking care of survivors.
Chiang Mai was the first city in Thailand to launch an initiative establishing structured procedures to support travellers in collaboration with multiple local agencies. As more stakeholders join the expanding network, it is crucial for the collaboration to be efficient and effective. The Embassy is acting as the centre for such collaboration between the US Consulate General, the Tourist Assistance Centre (TAC), police and hospital One-Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC).
The conference, Rape and Sexual Assault Survivors Handling was aimed at educating those agencies as to how to treat survivors in appropriate ways to avoid unnecessary trauma. First responders to rape incidents were told that the most important thing to establish upon contact with a rape survivor was their physical safety and wellbeing. They should not bombard victims with questions which may confuse them and if the victim was injured physically or mentally it was important to offer them a safe shelter and create some distance between the survivor and perpetrator and for officers to make them feel secure. Most survivors do not know what to do or how to react following the incident and they can be very unstable emotionally. No added stress must be put on them and questions and comments should be kept simple, such as, “Just take your time; there is no need for you to tell me anything you do not feel comfortable with,” or “Sounds as though you have been through a really tough time”. Here in Chiang Mai, the tourist police tend to be the first responders, and it was important that that there were female officers and interpreters present so as not to intimidate or scare the victim. Counsellors should also be provided as soon as possible.
The British Embassy is highly committed to this issue and conducts has conducted training sessions with the U.S. Embassy, Australian Embassy and New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok. This week it has also held training sessions in for staff in various provinces across Thailand, especially those which receive high numbers of tourists such as Pattaya and Phuket.
At the end of the conference, Vice Consul Derek Johnstone said, “The next phase is to conduct more training sessions with multiple agencies across the country “.
Background: 1 million British tourists travel to Thailand each year and over sixty thousand live as expatriates on a long term basis. The consular team in Bangkok responds to over 1500 consular cases per year. Between June 2016 and June 2019 the Consular Section Bangkok assisted 40 survivors of rape and sexual assault. This is 4.2% of global cases (962) for the same period. Consideration should also be given to the number of survivors of rape who do not inform either the Police or the British Embassy about their attacks. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) which records the propensity of survivors to report such crimes showed that around 83% did not report their experiences to the police. (U.K. Embassy in Bangkok)