Are the warnings justified? How do the facts stack up?
This could be my opportunity to record some famous last words, but in all the time we have lived in Pattaya, Thailand’s extreme city, Mrs Pobaan, the mustard in my hotdog, and I have had very little experience of being preyed upon by persons of ill intent. On the contrary, I have never had any reason to suspect my fellow man of even eyeing me up for possible larceny. I have trusted everyone with whom I have had dealings and so far I have been rewarded by not having had anything stolen from me.
I said ‘very little experience’, rather than ‘no experience’ because, shortly after Mrs Pobaan and I became engaged—and she, of course, was known as Spinster of this Parish, rather than Mrs Pobaan—she went to show her prized new engagement ring to some friends. Although not lavishly endowed with enormous diamonds, I can attest that the bauble was an attractive piece and, being very new, was very shiny. In the course of taking the ring off (why would she do that?) to show it around her friends, the story is that the thing mysteriously disappeared. At the post-mortem enquiry that my distraught fiancée held to work out what had happened to her ring, fingers were pointed at a particular pair of girls who, with hindsight, no-one could remember having invited to the party.
Me, I shy away from handing diamonds to gatecrashers in my home, preferring instead to ask them to leave (I have to say that this is an entirely theoretical reaction which has yet to be tested in reality). Am I being paranoid, or would you have similar reservations? Whatever, it happened.
When the sobbing had died down and my lovely fiancée had convinced me that nothing further was to be gained by pointing fingers, I, Mr Pobaan was sent out to buy another engagement ring, preferably similar to the original.
This concluded the only incident in which, so far as we know, we have been relieved of any property against our will.
Burglary is a particularly horrid form of property crime. The victims of break-ins are left feeling that something of their privacy has been stolen along with the wide-screen TV, the carelessly-discarded sapphire necklace, the smartphone and the banknotes that always seemed safe enough under the mattress. The Pobaan castle has yet to be breached by burglars, though we have come close.
Our village is protected by a team of stalwart security guards, who smile broadly as you enter and leave. They are supposed to check the business of any visitor who isn’t actually a resident, to make sure they aren’t looking shifty as they come in, and aren’t carrying a bulging swag-bag as they go out. The guards have torches and are known occasionally to roam around the village at night, searching for would-be miscreants who may be lurking in the bushes, waiting for a chance to do a bit of breaking and entering.
You’d think that this would be enough to prevent burglaries, but in our village it wasn’t. There was a time when there seemed to be a break-in reported nearly every day. And, as the police seemed incapable of tracking down the perpetrators, the audacity of the criminals increased. On one occasion, an unfortunate neighbour had his pick-up stolen, but only after the felons had loaded it with consumer durables from his own house—including his fridge. History does not relate whether the robbers left the householder with a bottle of milk to soothe his discovery of the loss with a nice cup of tea.
These distressing break-ins continued for many weeks. Villagers began to feel besieged. Why could the thieves not be brought to justice? How were they managing to get past all that security?
As one of the few householders who hadn’t suffered, I began to worry that I would be suspected of the crimes.
Then, finally and abruptly, they stopped. Had the burglar seen the wickedness of his ways and decided to become a monk? Realising that it’s difficult to watch more than one wide-screen TV at the same time, had he decided that he now had every consumer durable he needed?
Actually, it was simpler than that. The burglaries in our village stopped when the contract for guarding the entrance was awarded to a different security company. It was the guards what done it. We’d been burgled by our own protectors.
According to the International Statistics on Crime and Justice, we in Thailand stand a very low chance of being burgled, compared with other countries. They say that here only 21 break-ins get reported each year per 100,000 people in the population, putting us at number 72 in a list of countries by burglary rate. This compares with an eye-watering 1,845 break-ins in Israel, the country that (reluctantly, I’m sure) wins the gold medal for being the most burgled. Let’s hope those Israelis keep that medal under lock and key.
Of course, there may be factors which make straight comparisons between countries spurious. For example, it may be that burglaries here are reported to the police less assiduously than they are in, say, Israel. But the difference in the figures is so huge that one is tempted to think that they must be showing a real enough difference.
I’m sure it’s still a good idea to lock your door and not leave your valuables lying around. However, the figures seem to show that this is a pretty safe place to live.
Hang on, what was that noise?