While the world responds to calls for help in the wake of Asia’s tsunami disaster, authorities say looting of victims is now taking place, with some accusations involving a rescue team.
According to the Nation newspaper in Thailand, rescue workers, or people disguised as rescue workers, have been stealing from those who drowned, as well as area shops.
Police in Phuket “have received complaints that a supposed rescue worker stole [$77,000 worth of jewelry] from a safe, while a man spotted another man trying to haul away his four-wheel-drive sports utility vehicle,” the paper stated.
The owner of Mother Gems on Patong Beach, said the safe was crushed under wreckage from her department store.
A security officer, Thaweewong Wongthong, told authorities he saw a man “wearing shorts and white T-shirt with the word ‘police’ on its back opening the safe box.”
The suspect reportedly arrived with 200 rescue workers from a foundation, and when police tried to call the group to form a lineup, the head of the team became angry and led his group to another town.
Police also found looted items on some rescuers on Phi Phi island.
A hotel manager reported “some rescue workers were spotted taking away valuable goods from dead bodies. Police later searched and found that some 20 of the workers had valuables looted from the dead,” according to the paper.
One suspect, Winai Cholthan, was found with 33 items, including rings and earrings. He reportedly admitted he and four friends traveled by boat to loot the island.
Thieves also stole donated goods slated to be distributed to villagers in Takua Pa’s Tambon Khao Lak.
Hundreds of extra police have been sent to areas where looting is reported to be heavy, according to Agence France-Presse.
At least 13 Burmese migrant workers have been arrested so far for stealing items including television sets.
“Many looters were arrested in Phuket,” said Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. “The ATM has been hit. It’s really bad. We must consider these people very bad guys.”
The process of identifying many of the victims remains difficult because wallets containing identification are missing, said Krabi police chief Sermphan Singthong.
“We are not sure whether the wallets were stolen or washed away by the waves,” he said.