Family of murdered American tourist call for Thailand travel boycott *updated

Family of murdered American tourist call for Thailand travel boycott *updated
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The family of an American tourist murdered in the popular Northern Thailand tourist destination of Chiang Mai have reacted angrily to Monday’s provincial court ruling that means his killer will serve less than three years in jail and called on Americans to boycott Thailand as a tourist destination.

Sandra Fall, mother of murdered Hawaiian resident Gary Bruce Poretsky said via email,”I cannot even celebrate the conviction. I have lost a son and this person will be free to walk the streets. Is that justice or what?

“I am very upset at the outcome of the trial. I have sent an e-mail to the [US] State Department telling them the outcome of the trial and how disappointed I am with them that they did not have a representative in the courtroom to protect the rights of its citizens”.

Mrs Fall’s daughter, Sylvia Poretsky, has similarly fired off angry e-mails to powerful former republican politician and speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt Gingridge, as well as to vice president Dick Cheney, CNN, and all major US newspapers.

US Embassy Bangkok slammed over inaction

In her e-mails, Ms Poretsky states, “no one from the US Embassy even bothered to attend [the trial]. The Thai government should be ashamed of themselves, and the United States Government should be even more ashamed.

Gary Poretsky travelled to Chiang Mai for a holiday after receiving dental treatment in Bangkok
Gary Poretsky travelled to Chiang Mai for a holiday after receiving dental treatment in Bangkok Supplied

“No wonder Americans lack pride. Their own government does not have pride or self-respect. The family has had to beg for every piece of information that we have received from the US Embassy and they didn’t even bother to alert us to this trial taking place”.

Ms Poretsky told the recipients, “my future votes are going to be cast for Americans who stand up for their citizens. Maybe, nothing can be done for my brother, but a lesson should be learned from his death. We must alert Americans not to go to countries that treat our citizens like dirt”.

In her emails Ms Poretsky calls on the recipients to, “join me in getting this story out to all Americans, who love to travel and spend their hard earned money supporting countries, who don’t give Americans justice. See how well these countries do without our money.

“Let Americans know that they are not safe. Bring back American pride. Help America stand for something again”.

Mr Poretsky’s cousin, Mitch Nollman, was also incensed at the sentence and fired off letters to powerful US democrat senator and former US presidential candidate John Kerry, as well as to senior democrat senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy.

According to Mrs Fall, the four year sentence with a 50 per cent reduction because the killer pleaded guilty makes a mockery of the word justice. “Does that mean that anyone in Thailand can commit murder and only receive a two year plus sentence?”

Low cost dentistry trip ends in death

On Monday (August 18) the Chiang Mai Provincial Court heard how 46-year-old Gary Bruce Poretsky was visiting Thailand to take advantage of the high quality, but low priced dental treatment available there when he was shot dead in a Chiang Mai restaurant on March 22, 2008 by 61-year-old William Thomas Douglas, formerly of Willetton in Western Australia.

William Thomas Douglas will be eligible for release in December 2010
William Thomas Douglas will be eligible for release in December 2010 John Le Fevre

A Thai woman who had befriended Mr Poretsky told the court that Douglas had claimed to be an undercover police operative for the Royal Thai Police (RTP), assisting them in identifying and capturing drug traffickers and users.

She told the court, “he said he had already killed two drug traffickers while working with the police”.

According to Ms Jirawadee, Mr Poretsky didn’t believe him and to prove his point Douglas pulled out a handgun and showed them.

“Douglas then left the table and a few minutes later returned. He pulled out the gun and shot Gary two times in the chest. Gary fell to the ground and then Douglas fired a third shot into his head”, she said in sworn testimony.

In his defence Douglas, who has lived in Thailand for 28 years, claimed Mr Poretsky had antagonised him by criticising the Vietnam War and Australia and Thailand’s involvement in it.

He said he left the table and tried to phone his wife and then when he returned to the table Mr Poretsky had again commented on how “Australia and Thailand are tools of America.

“I pulled out my gun and shot him, but at the time I didn’t know what I was doing”, he claimed.

Chief Justice Chayut told Douglas that “Thai law states that for murder the penalty is death, or between 15 and 25 years imprisonment.

However, when he asked for a sentencing recommendation from Chiang Mai Provincial Public Prosecutor, Sonthaya Kruewate, the reply was “four years”.

Douglas was sentenced to four years imprisonment for murder, one year for having an unregistered firearm and a further six months for carrying a firearm in public.

Because of his guilty plea all sentences were reduced by half. With time already served William Thomas Douglas will be eligible for release in December 2010.



Updated June 14, 2010

William Thomas Douglas was granted a royal pardon by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej during the week of June 7, cutting six months off his sentence. He is resisting deportation procedures in order to remain in the kingdom where he is married to a Thai woman.



Photos John Le Fevre






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John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 40 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and editor.

He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.

He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.

In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.

Most recently he was the Thailand editor/ managing editor of AEC News Today . Prior to that he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.

In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

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8 Responses to "Family of murdered American tourist call for Thailand travel boycott *updated"

  1. Tripper   December 1, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Great posting, enjoyable to read. well done!

  2. brian   January 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    2 years for cold blooded murder!!!!!!
    Absolutely no doubt whatsoever this monster had influence with the thai injustice system. absolutely , absolutely sickening when you think kids with one exstacy tablet get 30 or 50 years in the bangkok hilton.
    shame on utterly corrupt thailand. beautiful country, awful society.

  3. RaiulBaztepo   March 29, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  4. Knowledgeable   March 21, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I have met this nasty old guy Douglas, he tries to be more Thai than a real Thai and he thinks it was really funny to kill this man and literally get away with murder. I have seen him playing the big man in front of other Thais and he buys his friends. He claims that he was a soldier in Vietnam, rubbish, he claims he worked for the Thai police but nobody seems to know him, he claims he has lived in Thailand for 30 years but nobody has ever seen him before. So who the hell is he? It would strongly suggest that the prosecutor was paid off as no Thai gets such a lenient sentence, even just possession of a gun will get you 2 years alone.

    • John Le Fevre   March 22, 2009 at 4:24 pm

      Hello Knowledgeable,

      Thanks for reading this. Yes, he is all of those things and more. However the fact that he was a soldier in the War with Vietnam has been established.

      The latest information I hear is that William Thomas Douglas is trying to raise enough money to buy his way out of jail.

      I’m totally bewildered in the lack of action by either the US Embassy or the US Department of State in pursuing this matter for a judicial review. I’m less surprised that the Thai Department of Justice or anti-corruption organisations haven’t either picked this up or been alerted to it. It’s possible that no-one, or not sufficient people, have written to complain about this.

      Best wishes,


  5. sam addington   September 6, 2008 at 4:36 am

    I met Gary the night before he was shot in a bar in Chiang Mai.He was in a bar down the street from me and came down to meet me when he heard a Hilo resadent was down the street.I was impressed whith a very frendly happy person and was shocked by the next days news.

  6. Mark   September 5, 2008 at 2:34 am

    I was thinking that the lighter sentence was due to with his supposed affiliation with the Thai Police. 100,000 baht? That’s chump change. Why did the Prosecutor reply “four years”?

  7. Carol Poole   August 25, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    This is a shocking verdict! No American can ever feel safe traveling to your country.
    From what I’ve read, the Judge was corrupt too.
    Shame, Shame on Thailand.


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