May 3, 2012

Robbed in Bangkok

Category: Thaism

A colleague of mine, recently come to the office with shocking news – he was robbed at knife’s point on a Friday evening on his way back home. He had taken the BTS train to the last BTS station – Wongwian Wai, and because it was very crowded (just like any other Friday night) round about 8-ish, he decided to walk a little further away from the BTS station to grab a cab home.

Just like he always did in the last 6 years or so.
According to him, as he was still walking, 2 men on motorbike descended upon him  with a knife to his face and demanded that he surrendered everything he had. They took his wallet and his I-Phone  and was looking for something more, when fortunately, a taxi pulled up right in front of him as a passenger was being dropped off. The men immediately fled, but not without yanking the gold chain around his neck. 
He said that the guy who got off the cab seemed to have an impression that something was not right, and asked if he could help. My colleague was so stunned that he went blank and all he could ask for was a 100 baht so he could take a taxi home. The taxi driver had also refused to accept his money and dropped him off at his home for free after he told his story. 
He shared that he woke up several times that night and felt like it was all a dream, because, he was still in bed and everything seemed fine. I cannot imagine how traumatic that incident may have left him. 
Granted, I have heard such stories happening in and around Bangkok, but this is the first time I personally know somebody who got mugged. It felt so real, and when he related the story to me, I was literally shivering down my spine. 
When I first came to Bangkok, I used to shrug it off when well-meaning colleagues in the office told me to be extremely careful when I go off on my own especially after 7pm. In my previous organization, bosses or colleagues were always offering to drop me off at my home. No, in fact, they did not only offer, they actually insisted and demanded that I wait for them so that they can drop me off if I leave the office after 7 pm. When I told them that I can always take a taxi, my excuses fell on deaf ears. It also did not help that I don’t actually want any of my colleagues to know where I was actually staying!
I used to think that were overtly paranoid. I came from a very safe-haven of Singapore where you can walk the streets at 3 am at night and no one would bother you. While I am aware that Bangkok is unlike Singapore, I still did not think that it could be dangerous, and that their reaction to such things was just a little OTT. 
Besides, the last thing I want to do is inconvenienced them as sometimes, depending on the person who was kind enough to offer me a ride, where I was going may not be necessarily be on their way. Yet, for a good 2 years, they insisted and insisted such that most times, it became a norm. Sometimes, I had to lie and told them that Silver Bullet will be picking me up as I really did not want to trouble them. Their concern was rather stifling.
Over the years, such petty crimes made it to the headlines and I started to err on the side of caution. And if my colleagues knew that I would be alone with no one to drop me off, they would insist that I let somebody know the taxi number and colour I was in.  This has actually become a habit of mine – whenever I am alone after dark in a taxi, I make sure that I texted Silver Bullet the necessary information. 
I truly had very caring colleagues then. When I moved on to a new organization, I never really did get any offers from anyone. I guess that is the peril of working for a much larger organization. The more structured they are, the less personal they become while they suck the living daylight out of you as a corporate slave. 
Now that I hear such a story from someone I personally know and work with, I begin to appreciate the concern of my previous ex-colleagues even more. They had warned me right from the start, and I truly have no reasons to doubt them. 
Their paranoia was nothing but valid.

To those out there who thinks that Bangkok is relatively safe at night, when you are out and about on your own, think again.

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