The woman was earlier caught on CCTV at the end of August stealing a bottle of cough medicine which she said were for her two children who she has been left to care for alone. Thai police resolved the matter but did not let her off scot-free.

A Thai woman committed an act of petty theft in Hat Yai on Thursday and was saved from the full rigour of the Thai legal system when she pleaded with arresting officers to hear her story. The 44-year-old woman’s husband deserted her 5 months ago for a prettier lover and left her with two children to care for.

Police at a 7/11 store in Songkhla on Thursday negotiate with staff and the woman about the attempted theft from the premises of ฿120 worth of makeup and medicine which was resolved after a phone call with the owner and a trip to the police station.

She was a known petty thief in a country that still adopts a no-nonsense approach to crime and theft. It is a policy that many foreigners to Thailand applaud and some, the debased kind, find themselves at the wrong end of. Yesterday, however, it was tested when Thai police were called to a 7/11 store in Hatyai in the southern province of Songkhla.

฿120 worth of makeup and medicine

When they arrived at the scene, they found store staff cornering an overweight 44-year-old Thai woman who had just attempted to steal ฿120 worth of makeup and medicine. That’s $4 which the woman had placed in a 7/11 bag. Cashiers at the store had reported the attempted theft to the local police station.

Store workers were waiting for the woman after another incident on August 21st

The workers at the store who are made responsible for controlling pilfering and trained by the 7/11 chain at special schools to do so, had recognised the woman. On August 21st last, she had come to the store and taken away a bottle of cough medicine.

When followed outside, she simply walked away at speed so staff retrieved the CCTV footage of that incident and kept it on file. They had expected her to come back

Admitted the crime but explained her story

The Thai woman did not attempt to deny her illegal act but appealed to the officer’s sense of compassion by explaining her story.

Her husband had left her 5 months earlier for another woman who was more attractive than her. He told her that she was too fat and old before her time. The couple had two children who the woman continues to care for.

Has worked for a long time as at soy milk outlet

She works at soymilk store and earns ฿200 per day. In the course of her work, she boils milk which after years working at the establishment, has left her with scars on her feet and hands. The woman had recently concluded that she had to begin looking for another man to help her make ends meet with her pitifully low salary, indeed below the Thai minimum wage.

Children waiting for her at home

The woman pleaded with the store staff to let her go. She explained that one of the items in the bag was again cough medicine that she needed for her children waiting for her at home.

Police contacted the owner of the 7/11 franchise

Thai police reached the owner of the 7/11 franchise and asked her to talk with the woman as the consequences for her and the two children following an arrest for theft and prosecution under Thai law would be grave.

The owner extracted a promise from the woman that she would not steal from her store or any other store from now on and while she had to pay for the makeup, the medicine for her children would be free.

Taken to a Hatyai police station for processing

Following the agreement, police officers took the woman to a local police station in Hat Yai where a legal record of the agreement, the incidents and the resolution between her and the store owner was recorded. 

If the woman breaches the trust placed in her, she will find herself facing charges of two counts of theft at the 7/11 store before the Thai courts in addition to any other legal infraction that may have triggered her arrest.

Reality of life at the bottom of Thai society

The poignant story, of course, highlights the reality for many at the bottom tier of Thailand’s economy and society.

It also highlights the plight of women in Thailand and within a society where a large number of women still compete to find men without the intervention of state support services and far from the media spotlight that focuses on female rights activists around the world.

Further reading:

It’s a hard station for Thai police and foreigners should understand better the job they do to keep order

Thai man massacred his Thai wife’s family and his own children because he felt unwelcome at party