Dutch stone throwers “got carried away”

RNW archive

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The two Dutchmen, aged 44 and 17, who were arrested in Thailand for throwing stones during last week’s riots in the northern city of Chiang Mai, have been released with only a warning. Salient fact: the men were taking part in a rehabilitation project for people addicted to drugs or other substances.

Ron Gerrits from the Creating Balance Thailand addiction clinic is really angry with his two clients. On the one hand because they haven’t done the name of his clinic any good, and on the other for the two men themselves. Ron says the 44-year-old ex-addict was doing very well in Thailand: he has been clean for two years now and for the last year has been in Thailand.

“Everything was going well,” Ron says. “He had earned a teaching certificate and was ready to start work next week as a teacher.” Ron can’t explain the man’s behaviour other than to say that he let himself get carried away by the emotions of the moment. “But you can see in the video that he only threw one stone.”

It’s different for the second Dutchman. In another video on YouTube, says Ron, you can clearly see him throwing several stones. Ron says he’s an individual who, after getting stranded in aid programmes in the Netherlands, decided to go to Thailand. “Although he’s also done a lot of volunteer work here, he has been involved in a couple of incidents. That’s reason enough for me to send him back home.”

Both men have avoided any punishment. After a police interrogation lasting six hours, they were released with just a warning. And without a criminal record either, which is especially important for the 44-year-old; it means he can still start work as a teacher. And the school he was planning to work in has already let Creating Balance know that he’s still welcome.

Ron Gerrits’ clinic has been active in Chiang Mai for two years. Not only do all patients get one-on-one help, but they also participate in volunteer projects in the north of the country. In conjunction with the local Red Cross, for example, they take part in a drugs, alcohol and AIDS prevention project in the countryside.

Peter van Loo, the Dutch honorary consul in Chiang Mai, says there have no been no such other notable incidents at the clinic and that Creating Balance’s reputation is good. But, he adds, the incident with the two Dutchmen has caused quite an uproar within Chiang Mai’s Dutch community. “When the police sent out a wanted notice, it spread fast among the Dutch residents. Everyone tried to identify the two men.”

The consul thinks it's remarkable that the men were released with just a warning. And he expects that their involvement in last week’s riots will remain a topic of conversation in Chiang Mai for some time. “Most Dutch people enjoy living here and think it’s terrible that their fellow countrymen could do this sort of thing.”