In the first nine months of , there were more than two million fewer foreign tourists who visited Thailand compared with the same period a year previously. And the deaths of foreigners often go unlamented; even unrecorded. Tourists are still given few warnings of the reality of the situation they are entering.
Mr Stapleton previously worked as a news reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald from to and for The Australian between to He has been visiting Thailand since the s before moving there in From an initial forecast at the end of last year of Figures released by the British government showed that between and there were British deaths in Thailand. In the 12 months up to April 1, there were British deaths in Thailand, while in the same period up to April there were deaths and hospitalisations of British tourists.
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Thailand's much-prized tourist industry, which accounts for 10 per cent of the country's GDP, is in decay following more than 12 months of political unrest. As well as the murder of two British backpackers in mid-September, there was a bloody military coup earlier this year.
Australian author and journalist John Stapleton has written a new book branding Thailand one of the world's most dangerous destinatons. It will be released next week. European, American, Australian and Canadian passports are particularly prized. When punters return to claim their documents, they have disappeared. The book's author claims that those who know Thailand well were unsurprised by the murder of British tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23, and year-old David Miller, who were killed in an attack on the island of Koh Taoin September.
The UK government has issued official warnings about violence to the , British tourists who travel to Thailand each year. Australian author John Stapleton began visiting Thailand in the s before moving there in Unlike many expatriates and tourists, I spent a lot of time with the Thais themselves. She had to focus on him, focus on his breathing and slow down her own. The slight loosening of his hand over her mouth gave her just enough leeway to turn her head. He was close, and she was so scared, it took a couple of seconds for his face to register.
When it did, she slowly nodded. He was unmistakable, his eyes dark green and deep set beneath black lashes and the straight dark lines of his eyebrows. His hair was longer than on the framed Newsweek cover her grandfather kept at home, the lines of his face more defined by the intervening years, but it was him — Quinn Younger, and if her grandfather had thought him an outlaw at sixteen, Wilson should see him now. The place looked deserted.
The police were definitely tired of listening to her. They never had believed that Dr. Wilson McKinney had disappeared. But it was different. He loved nothing better than to rattle on about dinosaur fossil beds to a captive audience and get paid for doing it. At seventy-two, nothing could have kept him from his moment of glory — nothing except some kind of trouble.
Quinn Younger, she mused, looking over the small collection of broken-down buildings clustered at the side of the road. Sheets of tarpaper flapped on every outside wall, loosened by the wind. Half the shingles on the roofs had been blown off. The two vehicles parked in front of the gas station were ancient.
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If Quinn Younger did live in Cisco, he was stuck there, and nothing could have made less sense. His survival behind enemy lines and daring rescue by the Marines had become the stuff of contemporary legend. He was a one-man recruitment poster for the United States military. Wilson had been damn proud of the young man, one of the first to be pulled off the streets and out of the courts of Denver and given a second chance with him. Not anymore. Looking at Cisco did little to change the impression.
There was nothing but desert scrub all the way to the horizon. With an exasperated sigh, she returned her attention to the buildings. If Wilson or Quinn Younger were there, or had been there, she was going to know it before she left. Ignoring her unease and a good portion of her common sense, she put the car in gear and pulled back onto the road, heading for the gas station. All kinds of people drove by Cisco.
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Damn few people pulled into town and stopped — with good reason. Out of the seven buildings still standing, not a one of them looked anything less than forbiddingly deserted. Other than the shop and living space built into the barn, they were deserted. Not one damn thing had happened in Cisco in the two weeks he and Kid had been stuck there.
The car was barely street legal as it was. Finishing up the nitrous oxide system pushed it over the edge. Kid could have his fancy Porsche. Quinn was putting his quarter-mile money on the Chevy. Quinn lifted his head again, looking over the engine at the twenty-three-year-old ex-Marine. His eye was glued to the scope; his body was tense and alert. Of course, the boy had been roughing it with Quinn since the middle of June. Possibly, it was merely the sight of a woman, any woman, that had gotten his juices going.
Setting aside his wrench, he straightened up from under the hood. As had become habit over the last few weeks, he tested his left leg before trusting it to completely hold his weight. When it held, he limped across the shop floor and turned on the laptop Kid had rigged up to half a dozen cameras around Cisco. Despite a serious addiction to fast cars, extreme sports, and general mayhem, Kid was a certifiable electronics wizard. In their line of work, taking a little time off was a slippery concept.
Quinn typed in a couple of commands, activating the cameras in the buildings. His brow furrowed.
Not this woman. She was randomly picking her way through the dust and the tumbleweeds inside the gas station, peering over countertops and around half-fallen beams. A broken chair caught her unawares in the shin, and she swore under her breath. Colorful, he thought, his lips twitching in a brief grin. Definitely lost tourist material. No trained hunter would swear because of a measly shin hit.
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No truly trained hunter would have run into the chair in the first place. After rubbing her leg, she continued on, looking around with curiosity and caution, but not with deadly focus — and not with a weapon in her hand or visible anywhere on her body. In short, she did not look like a killing machine. What she looked like was a schoolteacher — the luxury model. Her honey blond hair was piled into a ponytail on the top of her head, but a lot of silky swaths had tumbled back down, giving her a mussed up, just out of bed look.
She wore a soft-looking lavender shirt and a pair of jeans, both of which appeared to be standard mall issue, and both of which revealed a perfectly average, if decidedly nice, and very nicely endowed female form. Plenty there for Kid to get excited about, he thought. Lost tourists did not turn into lovers, ever, not in his game book.
The chances of him burning rubber out of Cisco and leaving Kid to take the heat were damn slim, at least today.