KRABI – It was supposed to be a relaxing break at a friendly beach resort for Hannah Gavios, an adventurous 23-year-old American on a three-day leave from her job teaching English in Vietnam.
Within hours of her arrival last Thursday, the break turned into a nighttime sexual assault, by a Thai stranger who Ms. Gavios said had volunteered to guide her to her hotel, the Chill Out Bar & Bungalow in Railay Bay, Krabi, a popular hangout for young foreigners.
Ms. Gavios said she punched her attacker in the face, bit off part of his ear and ran through the darkness in a failed attempt to escape, falling off a 150-foot cliff near the beach and fracturing her spine.
She then spent hours yelling for help in the darkness, she said, while the assailant searched for her with his cellphone flashlight, then alternated between praying for her, masturbating and groping her as she lay on a rock, unable to move.
â€œI felt like nothing,â€ Ms. Gavios, of Bayside, New York, said on Wednesday, recounting the attack by phone to the New York Times from her hospital bed in Phuket, Thailand, where she underwent emergency spinal surgery after she was rescued last Friday in Krabi, several hours away by boat. â€œI almost gave up.â€
According toAo Nang Deputy Police Chief Lt. Col. Winai Poonsawas, said Thai National Apai Ruangwong, 28, faces 5 to 20 years in prison if convicted of causing serious injury and obscene behavior toward another person.
Chief Lt. Col. Winai Poonsawas said that officers have already taken an incident report from Gavios and sent the initial report Wednesday to prosecutors.
â€œShe has given us her statement, and it is similar to what Apai had told us. He did sexually attack her, but did not rape her.â€
He is a homeless man, locals give him food and drink to get by, and sometimes people pay him to help move or carry things at the beach.
â€œHe is mentally stable,â€ Col. Winai added, in response to reports that Apai suffers a mental disability.
The United States Embassy in Bangkok declined to comment on the case against Ms. Gaviosâ€™s assailant, referring questions to the Royal Thai police.
Dr. Manop Trinarong at Bangkok Hospital Phuket said that Gavios is recovering well from her spinal surgery, her parents arrived in Krabi on Saturday to provide support during her recovery.
He suggested Miss Gavios might be able to leave for the United States in about 10 days.