Family of murdered American tourist call for Thailand travel boycott (Updated June 14, 2010)


This story was updated at 23:25 April 19, 2011
Additional material in red text

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 court room to protect the rights of its citizens.”


Mrs Fall’s daughter, Sylvia Poretsky, has 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.

In her e-mails, Ms Poretsky states, “no one from the U.S. 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.

‚ÄúNo 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 U.S. Embassy and they didn’t even bother to alert us to this trial taking place.‚Äù

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, ‚Äújoin 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.”

The dead man‚Äôs 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. She asks, “does that mean that anyone in Thailand can commit murder and only receive a two year plus sentence?”

Hawaiian resident Gary Poretsky, murdered by Australian William Thomas Douglas in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hawaiian resident Gary Poretsky, murdered by Australian William Thomas Douglas in Chiang Mai, Thailand

On Monday (August 18, 2008 ) 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 gunned down in a Chiang Mai restaurant on March 22, 2008 by 61-year-old William Thomas Douglas, formerly of Willetton in Western Australia.

A Thai woman who had befriended Mr Poretsky described the dead man as “a nice friendly person. I never saw him get aggressive or raise his voice to anyone.”

The woman, who goes by the single name of Jirawadee, gave graphic evidence of the shooting to the court, describing how Douglas had claimed to be an undercover police operative for the Royal Thai Police Force, 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.‚Äù

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

Ms Jirawadee told Chief Justice Chayut Prapakamon, “after he showed the gun the conversation got tense.

Australian William Thomas Douglas in Chiang Mai received four-years for murdering American Gary Poretsky
Australian William Thomas Douglas in Chiang Mai received four-years for murdering American Gary Poretsky. Photo: John Le Fevre

‚ÄúDouglas 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 girlfriend and then when he returned to the table Mr Poretsky had again commented on how “Australia and Thailand are tools of America.”

‚ÄúI 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, “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.

© John Le Fevre, 2008


June 14, 2010.

Australian who murdered American tourist in Chiang Mai gets royal pardon

William Thomas Douglas was granted a royal pardon by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej during the week of June 7, 2010 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.

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.

See: Video footage of the crime scene and William Thomas Douglas’ on-camera confession

See: Video of William Thomas Douglas’ court attendance

Related: Cash payment lightens sentence for Australian murderer

Related: Aussie shooter front’s Thai Court

Related: Perth man remanded over fatal shooting of American tourist

Related: American tourist not liked – killed


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Chiang Mai • Crime • Gary Bruce Poretsky • Human rights • Murder • Thai legal system • Thailand • Tourism/travel • Tourist murder • William Thomas Douglas • Thailand tourism • Northern Thailand

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John Le Fevre

Thailand editor/ managing editor at AEC News Today

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

He is currently Thailand editor/ managing editor for AEC News Today

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 June 14, 2010)"

  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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