2001 SRT rape victim in 'living hell'

A woman claiming her life was ruined 13 years ago by a rapist on a State Railway of Thailand train appealed in an open letter Tuesday for changes to ensure that a 13-year-old raped and killed on a southern train Sunday will be the last victim.

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Reportedly written in Athens, where the Thai woman moved to escape the stigma of her rape, the letter referred to reports of the assault on a female postgraduate student in a sleeper car on a southern train on July 16, 2001. The rapist was fired from his job at the SRT and sentenced by the Criminal Court to nine years in jail. The Civil Court and the Appeal Court ordered the SRT and the rapist to compensate the victim, but her legal case had yet to be finalised.

Upon learning about the case of teenager Nong Kaem, who reportedly was making her first train journey, the writer said her heart was crushed and that she asked herself why she was not the last victim of such a crime.

"I would like to extend my condolences to the parents of the girl who passed away. I understand the loss because I lost my mother due to the incident that happened to me. I would like to say that the girl now rests in peace. She is much luckier than I am because I have been living in hell for more than a decade. I can never sleep at night. It is unforgettable," she wrote in the open letter addressed to the chief of the National Council for Peace and Order and SRT governor Prapat Chongsanguan.

Reports of Nong Kaem's death were so traumatic for the writer, she said, that she lost consciousness for about three hours. After recovering, she wrote the letter to ask Thai society whether it was time for action to be taken to improve safety so no one would need worry about who will be the next SRT rape victim, she said.

The writer also questioned whether Mr Prapat deserved to stay in his position any longer.

Mr Prapat told reporters Wednesday that he would not resign nor would seen as avoiding the problem. He said he would remain in office to resolve the problem and initiate measures to restore confidence in train services.

Mr Prapat cited his ideas to introduce cars for women and ban alcoholic drinks on trains. He also said that the SRT would expeditiously check the background of all employees.

No background check was done on Wanchai Saengkhao, the 22-year-old SRT employee promoted from a temporary position to permanent staff despite media reports he had been prosecuted twice for illicit drugs and earlier raped two female SRT employees. Those staffers had refused to file complaints. While working on the Nakhon Si Thammarat-Bangkok train where the girl was raped and killed Sunday, Mr Wanchai reportedly took methamphetamines and drank beer.

The letter writer noted that justice has been agonizingly slow in her civil case, which has dragged on for 13 years due to SRT petitions for a reduced sentence with the Supreme Court.

Embarrassment from the rape forced her to leave Thailand and struggle to settle in another country and she waits for "a justice system that has been delayed with the lack of respect for humanitarianism," she said.

"Many people may not know that the incident, but it has changed my life and health completely and permanently," she wrote. "I was forced to resign from my promising job because the management considered me a blemish on its organisation, as the incident happened while I was travelling on business for the company."

Since the rape, the writer said, she has been afraid of people around her and relies on medications that causes her hands to shake. She said she also often loses control and passes out at even the slightest reminder of her trauma.

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