US serviceman arrested for rape

PATONG: A serviceman from the visiting American warship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, has been arrested and handed over to the US Navy after allegedly raping a U.S. servicewoman in the early hours of yesterday. He is also alleged to have assaulted an Australian passer-by who tried to stop the rape. The accused man was named by Patong police superintendent Col Chalit Thintanee as Thomas Wolf, a US Marine sergeant serving aboard the Bonhomme Richard, one of a seven-vessel flotilla currently on R&R in Phuket’s seedy entertainment capital. The victim was a 22-year-old Petty Officer 3rd Class serving on the same ship as Wolf. It is alleged that when an Australian resident of Phuket, named by police as Henry Birmingham, responded to the woman’s screams and tried to stop the rape, Wolf hit him in the face, knocking him out. Wolf was finally subdued by about a dozen local people who came to the woman’s aid. She was taken to Bangkok Phuket Hospital with serious injuries, including a broken jaw and a badly bitten nose. Doctors are currently refusing to allow anyone to see her. Under Thai law, a foreign serviceman involved in a crime on Thai soil would normally be subject to trial by the Thai courts. However, after three hours of negotiations between Phuket Vice Governor Manit Wattanasen, a representative of the US Embassy, and the accused man’s commander, it was agreed that Wolf would be handed over to the US Navy to be tried in a military court in the US. Mr Birmingham declined to press charges for assault, said Col Chalit. The Nation newspaper reported that a story on the attack published by a Thai newspaper drew strong criticism from the US Embassy. The Nation quoted an embassy spokeswoman as saying, “We were dismayed to see the picture of the victim, badly bruised and apparently unconscious on the front page of a local newspaper. “It is a clear violation of her privacy. It shows a lack of compassion and professionalism on the part of authorities to allow [news] photographers access to the victim and on the part of the newspaper that printed the photos,” the embassy spokeswoman said. V/Gov Manit told the Gazette after the negotiations that the story in the Thai newspaper was “totally wrong” on many points. For example, he said, the story stated that the victim was raped by 10 men and identified Mr Birmingham as her boyfriend. “It was not a gang rape,” said V/Gov Manit, “and the Australian man was only a witness, who was walking past and tried to help the woman, resulting in his being punched in the face.” There are currently some 5,000 US servicemen and women in Phuket for R&R.

Phuket News
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