KOH SAMUI – Australian Jack Hansen-Bartel didn’t see the punches coming when he suffered horrific injuries to his face, ending his work as a part-time model and plans to enter a Melbourne university.
“I had no ability to defend myself as I was hit with cowards’ punches,” he says.
How 20-year-old Hansen-Bartel’s life turned into a nightmare from that night on Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand in June reveals a dark underbelly in southern Thai resorts that are promoted as paradises and attract tens of thousands of Australian tourists each month.
The case has sent alarm bells through Thailand’s expatriate community amid a spike in the number of murders, rapes and assaults on islands such as Samui and Phuket, including the gruesome hacking to death of British tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23 and David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao on September 15.
No staff of Samui’s famous Green Mango club came to assist Hansen-Bartel, who was on the island celebrating his graduation from one of Bangkok’s top international schools, as he lay semi-unconscious on the floor, three of his teeth missing, a flap jaggedly torn from his gum and swallowing his own blood, making it difficult to breathe, witnesses say.
As Hansen-Bartel’s 24-year-old brother Jesse and five friends dragged him outside he said he felt his world was closing in and thought he was dying as blood gushed from his eye and mouth.
Outside in a small street known as Soi Green Mango a Thai man, who claimed he “owned” the street, attacked the group with a Taser, saying he was sick of foreigners.
Hansen-Bartel collapsed outside a go-go bar called Dream Girls, which was closed.
A man who appeared to be British turned up brandishing a bottle, yelling he was “sick of people like you”.
As Hansen-Bartel, drifted in and out of consciousness, covered in blood and struggling to breathe, an ambulance arrived in the street but the medical staff inexplicably did nothing to help, witnesses said.
About 40 minutes after the attack Hansen-Bartel was lifted into a friend’s van.
The driver took off following the ambulance, thinking it would lead them to a hospital, but it instead drove around in circles, apparently to try to lose the van.
Eventually the van driver broke away and by chance came across a small hospital, which agreed to treat him after payment for his medical costs were guaranteed.
“That was just the start of the nightmare,” said Hansen-Bartel’s mother, Annie Hansen, a single mother working in Bangkok.
Her son faces 18 months of multiple facial surgeries costing tens of thousands of dollars: his medical insurance had expired nine days before the attack.
Initial plastic surgery done on Samui needs to be redone before other surgery can be restarted.
Hansen-Bartel has been told by doctors to expect only 80 per cent recovery.
Samui police quickly charged two graduating students from an international school in China over the incident.
But six weeks later the students created charges of their own against Hansen-Bartel, alleging they were protecting a female friend who they claim he was “molesting,” and that a fight ensued.
Hansen-Bartel strenuously denies the claim although he said had met the female on the beach earlier in the day and at a bar in Soi Green Mango.
Closed circuit television from the Green Mango appears to show Hansen-Bartel walking into the club with the woman before being stopped by the students.
“One said to me, ‘she is with my friend…don’t mess with her,'” Hansen-Bartel told Fairfax Media. “I said, ‘Sorry, I didn’t know.'”
Hansen-Bartel said he then asked the woman if she knew the men and she said she did and would stay at the club with them.
Hansen-Bartel was injured later in the night.
Annie Hansen said in the weeks following the laying of the complaint against her son the family received harassing phone calls and threats from Samui.
“We were terrified….we were trying to find a safe house to take Jack,” Ms Hansen said.
“It’s unbelievable. We feel like we are fighting a mafia and money while Jack did nothing wrong,” she said.
Attempts Ms Hansen has made to have the case transferred from Samui to a Bangkok court have been rejected.
“We fear we will not be able to get justice on the island,” she said.
Ms Hansen said the case has been upsetting for her family members as they struggle to deal with Thai government departments and police agencies.
She and Jack went to Thailand’s Government House to press their concerns over the handling of the case on the day military rulers were sworn into office after staging a coup in May.
“They must have thought I was a crazy farang [foreigner],” she said, adding that military officers have since taken an interest, sending officers to monitor the questioning of her son by a Samui policeman.
Thailand’s military government is concerned about violence in tourist areas in the county where tourism accounts for almost 10 per cent of GDP.
Tourists arriving in Thailand fell 11.9 percent in August from a year earlier after a 10.0 percent drop in July.
Authorities have limited party hours on some of Thailand’s islands and are considering imposing restrictions on where they can be held.
Thailand’s tourism minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, suggested that hotels hand out wristbands to help identify tourists who get lost or into trouble but military leader Prayuth Chan-ocha later dismissed the idea, after an outcry from tourist organisations.
In the past few days Thai police have been investigating the rapes of two young tourists in the Thai resort city of Pattaya and the apparent murders of two bodies washed ashore on Samet island in the Gulf of Thailand and Phuket in the Andaman Sea, where police have launched a crackdown on criminal gangs and tourist scams and cleared beaches of illegal structures.
After three weeks of false leads and bungled investigations a Myanmar man has allegedly confessed to the murders on Koh Tao, a popular destination for divers.
Hansen-Bartel says his life has changed forever following his trip to Samui. Before he went he told his mother it would be the best time of his life.
He suffers agoraphobia, severe depression and cannot sleep at night because of the pain of his injuries.
“I was to continue to work as a model in order to save to help pay for university and to have this sideline as my main source of income,” he says.
“This will no longer happen and I have no source of income.”
A judge is scheduled to hear evidence in the case in January.