“There isn’t much room to park the car by my house, so I always left it on the street, not too far away. I have been living here for many years and it has always been a quiet area without any crime. We have never heard of a car theft on our street. I never imagined it would happen here and to me,” said the 38-year-old Fuji-Xerox technician.
“I arrived home at 5.30pm on October 28 and parked the car in the usual place, only to discover at 5.45am the next morning that it was gone. My bag with Buddha amulets, a driving licence, a bankbook and insurance documents were in the car,” said Wirat. He immediately alerted his family and neighbours, many of whom were having breakfast along the street. One told him that he had seen the car at 1am.
Wirat then went to Bang Na police station to report the loss of the Mitsubishi. “The police were helpful and expressed their sympathy, saying that car theft in the area is rising and they have increased the number of patrols there,” he said, adding that the insurance people were also very helpful.
“They asked about my background, whether I have debts, and the circumstances of the theft. They also photographed the location where the car was stolen. After that, the insurance company informed me that I could collect a cheque for 340,000 baht on December 2. I bought the car for 610,000 baht.”
Wirat suspects that a small car repair shop on Sukhumvit Road Soi 77 had something to do with the theft. “I left the car there at 11am on October 28 – one day before it was stolen – and collected it at 3pm I selected this particular shop because it is close to my office. Along with the car keys, I left another key for unlocking the anti-theft bar (that locks the pedals). Some of the workers probably copied it and followed me home,” he speculated.
He reported this to the police and the insurance company and showed them a receipt from the shop. The police didn’t go there but the insurance company did. To avoid confrontation, Wirat has been careful not to go near the shop since the theft.
Wirat plans to use part of the reimbursement as a down payment for a new Toyota Vigo. But he won’t install an electronic alarm this time because, in his opinion, it cannot stop thieves who can easily disable it. He prefers mechanical devices that lock the pedals (clutch, brake and accelerator) because they present a would-be thief with more of a challenge.
He says that such devices successfully protected the four cars he has owned in the last 20 years. Obviously they aren’t much help if the thieves are able to copy the keys to all devices, plus ignition and door lock, as he suspects was the case with his car.
Wirat has learned his lesson and offers this advice to fellow motorists: “Don’t park your car on the street overnight, do it only in a secure place. Secondly, when you service your vehicle use reputable dealers and leave them only the ignition key.”
On November 5, 2005 – only one week after Wirat’s Mitsubishi was stolen and police increased their patrols, car thieves struck again in the Saensuk housing estate. Chai and his family lost their red, diesel-powered Toyota Sport Ryder, which had been parked opposite their home.
“Our house’s compound can accommodate only one car, and we decided to keep our new Toyota sedan there. I never imagined that someone would steal a six-year-old Sport Ryder,” said the 50-year-old government official. His mother bought it for him brand new for 750,000 baht cash. We have been living here for 25 years. The neighbourhood has always been quiet and peaceful until the construction of condominiums nearby, and many strangers came.”
Chai, who shared the Sport Ryder with his son Somsak, last saw the vehicle on the evening of November 4, when he locked it up and left it outside the house as usual. When he got up at 7.30am the next morning, the car was gone.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes! I alerted my family, then called the 191 police emergency number. I gave my address and told them what happened. One of my neighbours told me that the car was still there at 1.30am. I was shocked but my son doubly so. He loved it because it was the first car he had ever driven,” recalled Chai.7
Chai, his wife and mother went there immediately. It took about two hours to complete the documentation both with the police and with the insurance company. The insurance people went to take photos at the crime scene and said that it would take approximately three months or more to complete the investigation. The company informed the family later on that they would receive 420,000 baht for the Sport Ryder, which had first-class insurance.
“The police and the insurance staff were helpful, but judging from their attitude, I got the message that it was over and we would never get the car back,” said Chai. The car was not equipped with an alarm or any other anti-theft device. Nor had the door lock been changed after Chai lost his bag containing car keys and ID cards showing his home address. However, he doesn’t suspect a connection.
“We had been talking for some time about whether to install the alarm but decided that since the car was already six years old no one would waste time stealing it,” he explained.
Ironically, one day before the car was stolen he had driven it to a car shop to inspect anti-theft devices but decided not to install one. Chai has no clue why someone would target the car. The car also had several pairs of shoes and some clothes in it. “We had been thinking about trading it in for another car, but our plans have all gone up in smoke,” Chai lamented.
Everyone in the neighbourhood knows about the theft, and no one leaves their car in the street overnight any more.
For 75-year-old Bunlong, it was a double shock when his blue Isuzu Dragon pick-up was stolen. After the police found it two days later, the vehicle was completely dismantled.
Because his house was flooded, Bunlong parked the car on Sukhapiban 1 Road in the Bang Plee area on the outskirts of Bangkok around 5pm on November 12, 2005. Twelve hours later, it was gone. A witness said he saw the car still parked there at 2am.
It obviously didn’t bother the thieves that the car was parked about 200 m from Bang Plee police station, and the mechanical locks apparently presented them with no obstacle.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered that the car wasn’t there. I was heart-broken, especially because it wasn’t insured. I thought that insurance wasn’t necessary anymore because I didn’t drive it very often and it was over three years old,” Bunlong said.
He reported the theft at Bang Plee police station near his house and they got back to him surprisingly soon afterward on November 15 with word that his car had been found in a garage in U Thong district in Suphan Buri province, about 150 km from Bangkok.
The victim discovered to his horror when he visited the garage accompanied by Bang Plee policemen on November 16 that his vehicle had already been stripped, with the engine actually standing next to it although thankfully still mostly intact. He also saw a treasure trove of car parts, including radios and CD players, on three floors of the garage that has since been closed down by the police.
A man who had been arrested for another offence in Kanchanaburi province brought the police to the garage located in U Thong district, where more than 10 cars were found partly or wholly dismantled. The parts were to be sold to repair shops. The man admitted to being a member of a car-theft gang and to having stolen Bunlong’s car.
Bunlong decided to bring what was left of his car back home for restoration. “I paid 9,000 baht for a crane-truck to bring the carcass and what else I could salvage of the car back home. It will cost some 100,000 baht to recreate a drivable vehicle, and an additional 35,000 baht for a new coat of paint,” he said.
Bunlong bought the car brand new in 2002 for 570,000 baht, with a 250,000 baht down payment and made 48 installments of 5,800 baht each. He still owes the finance company seven months worth of payments. A few days after the theft, Bunlong bought a brand new Chevrolet Colorado and decided to install a mechanical anti-theft device instead of an electronic alarm.