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British family beaten unconscious by gang in Thailand tourist resort

Published 28/04/2016

The Songkran New Year celebrations are also known as the Water Festival, when Thai families splash water on each other as part of a religious ritual of renewal (AP)
The Songkran New Year celebrations are also known as the Water Festival, when Thai families splash water on each other as part of a religious ritual of renewal (AP)

A British family have been punched and kicked unconscious during an attack in a tourist resort in Thailand.

The holidaymakers needed hospital treatment after the vicious assault by a gang in Hua Hin during celebrations for the Thai New Year on April 13.

The three victims have been named as Lewis and Rosemary Owen and their son Lewis (Jnr).

Thai police earlier suggested the couple, believed to be aged 68 and 65, were from Scotland but neighbours said they were from Wenvoe, in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales.

John Miles, 65, a retired lecturer at Cardiff University, said he learned about the attack in the newspaper.

He said: "I later saw Rose and Lew's daughter in the village - who told me that it was her mum, dad and brother who had been attacked.

"It came as a big shock. She said she hadn't slept all night and looked so worried. It must be hell for her knowing this has happened and being on the other side of the world.

"It is dreadful what has happened.

"Lew and Rose are really well-liked people and everyone is thinking of them. I don't know how they are doing, but when they come back I know that everyone will do whatever they can to help."

Prof Miles added the couple often go to Thailand to visit friends and their son had flown out from Singapore to meet them.

"Lew and Rose are a really lovely couple and very hard-working," he said.

"They all know the lay of the land there and the local customs.

"They are genuinely lovely people, I can't imagine why anyone would ever want to hurt them."

A spokesman for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said Royal Thai Police arrested six people and charged them with grievous assault on April 17.

He said: "An investigation is in process and the suspects will soon be under the jurisdiction of the court. If found guilty, the perpetrators of this incident will face full justice under Thai law.

"The Tourism Authority of Thailand would like to express our deepest sorrow to the family who were subjected to the assault in Hua Hin during the Songkran celebrations. We hope that you recover from your injuries and make a swift and full recovery.

"TAT would like to assure international travellers that this was an isolated incident, not targeted on any group of foreign tourists in particular. The situation was exacerbated by alcohol."

The family have now been allowed to leave hospital and Mr and Mrs Owen are expected to return to the UK next week, while their son has returned to Singapore, where he works, the TAT said.

CCTV footage covering the entrance to the busy Soi Bintabaht district, which has been leaked online, shows a brief argument taking place before the attackers punch and kick the victims.

Both men suffer blows to the face and body and when the woman, who was initially knocked flat by a punch, sits up, one attacker delivers a kick to her head.

The images show all three being beaten unconscious and left on the pavement, as a large crowd watches the unfolding scene in the busy street.

Police spokesman Chaiyakorn Sriladecho said the attack started after "the son accidentally bumped into one of the Thai men".

He told the Associated Press: "The men say they are sorry and that they wouldn't have done this if they weren't drunk."

The father and son required stitches for head injuries, while the mother suffered serious head and eye injuries, Mr Chaiyakorn said.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it had no information on their condition.

An FCO spokeswoman said: "Our staff have been in contact with the family to offer assistance and will remain in contact with the local authorities."

In the video, a passer-by appears to come under attack from several men after trying to intervene in the melee.

A contributor to the Hua Hin internet forum said they had rushed to help the family, whom they recognised from a nearby bar. As revellers were leaving for the night, groups of Thai youths had gathered on the street looking for trouble.

They wrote: "Within 20-30 metres of leaving the bar the Thais were punching the 65-year-old lady in the face!! The elderly gentleman was down on the floor and their son was beaten very badly!!!

"At this point I caught up to the scene and pushed one of the youths away from the woman...

"I got severely punched and kicked for my troubles, but felt the need to protect this frail lady."

Hua Hin is one of Thailand's top five beach resorts and the country is increasingly popular with UK tourists, the TAT said, with 940,000 Britons visiting in 2015.

The Songkran New Year celebrations are also known as the Water Festival, when Thai families splash water on each other as part of a religious ritual of renewal.

The British Embassy launched its #SongkranSafe campaign ahead of the festivities and encouraged holidaymakers to take part while appreciating local customs and traditions.

In the past tourists have been arrested for breaching decency laws by taking part without wearing T-shirts.

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