Victims urge police to clean notorious soi

Poor lighting is one of the most important factors that turns a popular gathering spot into a crime-prone area. (Photos by Patipat Janthong)
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Suwat Panjawong never thought he would be the target of street gangs until last year when he was attacked by a group of men who stole his smart phone and cut his throat with a long knife leaving him seriously injured.

“Anyone can be a victim of crime at any point. When we act in a careless way, it can create a potentially dangerous situation. Avoiding danger has nothing to do with being physically strong,” Mr Suwat, a former reporter of a local newspaper said.

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The incident took place on busy Ratchadaphisek Soi 36, also known as Soi Sua Yai Uthit, after midnight.

Mr Suwat was talking on the phone with his girlfriend when he was attacked by bandits who fled on a motorcycle.

One of the suspects tried to snatch his mobile phone and wallet but he resisted. He punched one of the men in the face, not realising he had a weapon.

The thug took a knife and cut Mr Suwat’s throat, seriously injuring him, and made off with his mobile phone.

Bleeding from the cut, Mr Suwat walked to a nearby convenience store to seek help. He was rushed to hospital where he had an operation. He stayed in hospital for nearly a month receiving treatment.

Mr Suwat urged people to exercise extreme caution when going outside alone at night even if they know the places through which they are walking.

“I am not a stranger to Soi Sua Yai Uthit. I’ve been hanging out with my friends at a restaurant there since I was a university student,” said Mr Suwat, a former student of Chandrakasem Rajabhat University.

Soi Sua Yai Uthit is a road popular among teenagers, who stay in nearby apartments and dormitories and frequent the many cafes, bars and entertainment venues.

The area offers thieves and miscreants a wealth of criminal opportunity.

Mr Suwat called on police to intensify their efforts to suppress crime in Soi Sua Yai Uthit.

He also demanded city officials launch measures to deter criminals.

Soi Sua Yai Uthit has been known for its crime but it is not on the list of crime hotspots provided by police.

Earlier this year, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) launched a public safety and security campaign in response Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang’s directive.

Under the campaign, deputy Bangkok governor Amnoy Nimmano submitted a letter to the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB), asking it to list all the crime hot spots in the city.

A total of 217 dangerous areas were listed citywide, with Chatuchak district at the top, according to a source close to the BMA.

Pol Lt Gen Amnoy asked city officers to work closely with city police and enforcement officers to improve safety in their respective jurisdictions and to submit a report to him twice a month, source said.

The list has been circulated to all district chiefs for acknowledgement.

According to Chatapat Pholawan, the head of city inspectors, or tessakij, responsible for Chatuchak, there are 19 hot spots in the district: A bus stop in front of the Royal Forest Department; Wat Sameannaree on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road; Civil Aviation Training Centre (Phahon Yothin Soi 18); Phahon Yothin Soi 18/1; and Phahon Yothin Soi 18/2.

Other areas include JJ Green Night Market, the Kids Museum, Suan Lum Night Bazaar on Lat Phrao Road, Lat Phrao Soi 20; and areas in front of the Phahon Yothin MRT station.

Mr Chatapat said police asked officials to install more street lamps and trim big trees to increase visibility and safety at night.

Officials have responded to the police’s advice, he added.

Mr Chatapat said city officials asked the Traffic and Transportation Department to examine whether CCTV cameras installed were working; whether they were in the right positions to capture people who could commit a crime; and whether more equipment should be installed.

But the department refused to do so, saying there had no budget allocated for additional outdoor lighting.

To solve the problem, Pol Lt Gen Amnoy ordered officials to relocate CCTV cameras from low crime zones to high ones.

Connecting to several main roads, Soi Sua Yai Uthit sits in a strategic area that provides access to an escape route for suspects, Mr Suwat said.

The alley links to Lat Phrao Road, Chokechai Si Road, Sena Niwet Road, Lat Phrao-Wang Hin Road, Kaset-Nawamin Road.

Close to Chandrakasem Rajaphat University, the alley has dormitories, apartments for rent, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Another victim of crime, Thunchanok Kulma, urged police to crack down on entertainment venues and sketchy areas in Soi Sua Yai Uthit.

Ms Thunchanok, 26, has lived in an apartment in Soi Sua Yai Uthit for many years.

She claimed pubs in the soi have failed to comply with regulations and that they stay open late, disturbing residents, while nearby communities have drug and crime problems.

Three years ago, Ms Thunchanok had a motorcycle she had just bought stolen from her apartment’s parking space. She bought the vehicle at a cost of more than 70,000 baht.

She reported the incident to police, but they failed to catch the thief.

“I chained my motorbike to a post but it was stolen. It is awful for me to have paid for a vehicle that I was never able to use,” Ms Thunchanok said, adding she has since bought a new one.

Taking matters into her own hands, she now uses disc brake lock to secure her bike when it is parked.

She has switched from riding a motorcycle to using a motorcycle taxi, or walking, when going to restaurants and entertainment spots to avoid being robbed.

Ms Thunchanok, admitted, however that living in Soi Sua Yai Uthit is convenient as the alley is just a stone’s throw away from the Lat Phrao MRT, where she often takes an electric train around the city.

It is also close to the Mor Chit bus terminal from where she can get a bus back to her hometown, Buri Ram, during festivals.

The alley also provides easy access to department stores, restaurants and the city landmarks, she added.

Ms Thunchanok called on officials to install more street lighting along the soi and CCTV cameras in crime-ridden spots to improve public safety.

She also demanded police officers to be on patrol at night in the soi.

-The Bangkok Post

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