A 33-year-old driver for ride-sharing service Grab today denied raping a teen passenger inside his car in the northeastern province Udon Thani despite evidence of chat messages indicating otherwise.
The suspect, identified only as Apinan, told police there this afternoon that he did not assault the 17-year-old girl while driving her home, three days after his accuser screencapped messages of him apologizing for the crime and pleading with her not to go to the authorities.
“We are still interrogating him. So far, he has denied all the accusations,” Maj. Plewthong Sarinan, an Udon investigator, told Coconuts Bangkok today.
The alleged incident occurred in the wee hours of Thursday morning while Apinan was driving the 11th grade girl home from a party at a friend’s house. Security footage shows her drunkenly stumbling out to the road and getting into a Grab vehicle at around 2:30am.
The girl told reporters that the driver suddenly parked the car after picking her up, leaned over to embrace her and asked for a kiss. She said that she said no and told him she felt nauseous. That’s when she said he dragged her into the back seat.
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She said that in her extremely intoxicated state, she briefly passed out and woke to discover her pants and underwear had been pulled down to her ankles and tissue paper stuffed in her mouth. She said the driver then proceeded to rape her. Despite her struggles, the girl said she could not get away and passed out again.
When she woke up next, they had arrived at her building. Though the ride was THB70 (US$2), she ended up paying THB100 (about US$3) because she did not have change and wanted to get away from the vehicle as soon as possible.
The next morning the victim said she received a phone call from the driver confessing to the rape. Screenshots of Facebook messages circulating online today purportedly show the driver apologizing and begging the victim not to report him to the police.
Udon Thani police chief Col. Sarayoot Champew confirmed the messages were, indeed, exchanged between the driver and his accuser, and were provided to the authorities by the girl’s brother.
“I’m really, really sorry. Please don’t destroy the future for me and my son.. … Don’t take this to the police or the court, please,” one reads.
The man also repeatedly asks where she is, saying he wants to see her. “Do you want me to make it up to you with money or gold? I will find it for you. I would be your slave,” reads another message.
The investigation into the alleged attack is ongoing.
Sexual assaults by taxi drivers in Thailand do happen, but perhaps not as widely as believed.
As for Grab drivers, there seem to be more accusations involving impostors, such as the Thai army soldier last year accused of posing as a Grab driver to rape at least one girl in Bangkok. Earlier this year an attempted rape by a Grab driver was reported in Malaysia, and late last year a Jakartan driver tried forcing himself on a woman. Two years ago, a GrabBike driver was accused of raping a teen fare in Jakarta.
Thailand’s government said it will allow Singapore-based Grab to operate fully legally in the country starting next year.