Pakistani receives life sentence for murdering Thai: Australian gets four years for killing American

Pakistani receives life sentence for murdering Thai: Australian gets four years for killing American
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Just two days after the Chiang Mai Provincial Court handed down a four year sentence to 61-year-old Australian William Thomas Douglas for the March 2008 murder of American tourist Gary Bruce Poretsky, Thailand’s Court of Appeal was affirming a life sentence for a Pakistani man convicted for murdering a Thai woman in 2006.

Mohammad Arif was found guilty on March 30, 2007 by the the Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok of murdering Ubon Ratchathani English-language teacher Dissanee Thongnarkthae in a Bangkok Hotel room on May 8, 2006.

Arif had come into contact with Ms Dissanee through an internet chat room and arranged to meet her in Bangkok. However when Ms Dissanee arrived in Bangkok she was met by Arif instead of the handsome Spaniard she expected to meet.

According to police and court reports, Arif stabbed the Thai teacher, killing her in “impulsive rage”, and then dismembered her body and attempted to dispose of body parts in several places.

Mohammad Arif, death penalty commuted to life for murdering and dismembering a Thai woman
Mohammad Arif, death penalty commuted to life for murdering and dismembering a Thai woman

The Ratchada Criminal Court originally sentenced 34-year-old Arif to death, but reduced the punishment because he confessed and had proved “useful”.

The court also ordered Arif to pay Bt2 million (about $US 58,625) in compensation, Bt150,000 ($US 4,396) for funeral expenses, and Bt30,000 ($US 879) for valuables he stole from Ms Dissanee to her parents.

Court-ordered payments to the victim’s family are subject to 7.5 per cent interest per year until fully paid.

In his appeal Arif claimed to have acted out of “impulsive rage” after Ms Dissanee had insulted his religion.

Arif asked the court for a lighter sentence and to reduce the Bt5.3 million compensation sought by the victim’s family.

The court judges refused to commute the sentence to a 25-year imprisonment and also upheld the lower courts ruling as to the levels of compensation that should be paid.

The judges said there was no substantial evidence to substantiate the defendant’s claim that he was forced to kill Ms Dissanee in “impulsive rage” or that he did not steal her belongings.

Thai double-standard legal system

Just 644km to the north though, the Chiang Mai Provincial Court appeared to accept the claim by Douglas that when he put first two bullets into Mr Poretsky and then a third into his face as he lay on the floor that he did so in “impulsive rage” and “didn’t know what I was doing.”

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

The two vastly different sentences by the two courts raises many questions.

The fact that Douglas also received only a total of one-and-a-half years, reduced by half for pleading guilty for two firearms offences that each carried a maximum of five years imprisonment, raises further questions.

The family of Mr Poretsky have already petitioned the US State Department and a string of senior US law makers, politicians, and media outlets over the Chiang Mai court sentence, but so far those appeals have brought little action.

If expatriates living in Thailand, as well as tourists, foreign investors and the Thai public are to have any faith in the Thai legal system, the sentencing and conduct of the Douglas trial should be subject to close scrutiny by both the Thai and US governments.

Otherwise the message is clear. Killing a Thai is more serious a crime than murdering a foreign tourist, or that a Muslim murderer is treated more harshly than a murderer from a developed nation.

Either way, the signals are all bad for a country experiencing record inflation, a destabilised political system, increasing levels of violence against dwindling tourist numbers, and a festering civil war in the south.

Without a prompt judicial review of the sentence imposed on Douglas for murdering Mr Poretsky in Chiang Mai earlier this year, Thailand is making it clear to everyone that there really is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Or that the Thai Government subscribes to the Hebrew proverb that equality of man is an empty phrase so long as it does not exist among the world’s peoples.



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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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5 Responses to "Pakistani receives life sentence for murdering Thai: Australian gets four years for killing American"

  1. [email protected]   February 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Oh God what the shame of the people as so easily they just murdered…cursos de idiomas enel extranjero

  2. brian   January 5, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    2 years for cold blooded murder…. months in jail for possessing a joint. sounds fair to me.

  3. john doe   May 12, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I think it is horrible and I am ashamed and terrified to have been living in chang Mai for 10 years. I am seriously thinking of paying someone off to retry him with the death penalty, and or leaving altogether. It is just horrible. it makes me sick to my stomach and morbidly scared. I know so may guys here that could pop off any day now(really hurt somebody)just like him. This is going to be the end of chang mai if the sentence is allowed to stand. Also the australian govt has a law that you will be retried for your overseas crime in Australia when you return. Hopefully he will be sent back to get tried in a real court. something has to be done about this. That guy is a mad dog. Remember if he is released….HE WILL KILL AGAIN!this has been proven it is only a matter of time. who knows how many other people he has killed in the last 25 years. Please do something or let me know if I can help. Having the case reviewed by a lawfirm in bankok is a start.

  4. Mark   September 5, 2008 at 2:14 am

    No mention in your artical of William Thomas Douglas’ purported affiliation with the Thai police as an undercover narcotics officer – as heard ‘on the street’ here in Chiang Mai. But I guess that’s hard to substatiate. Maybe it would come out in the unlikely event of a judicial review.

    • John Le Fevre   May 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm

      Hello Mark,
      The reference to Douglas claiming to have worked as an undercover narcotics officer with the Royal Thai Police is contained in the coverage of the trial in the form of a statement provided under oath by the woman who was with Mr Poretsky at the time of the shooting. It is also contained in earlier stories relating to this matter.

      Thanks for reading the article and thanks for your comment.



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