victims prey to crime
from Asia to Europe
Thieves, rapists, kidnappers and hoaxers
are preying on tsunami survivors and families of victims
in Asian refugee camps and hospitals and in the home countries
of European tourists hit by the wave. Reports and warnings
came in from as far apart as Britain, Sweden, Sri Lanka,
Thailand and Hong Kong of criminals taking advantage of
the chaos to rape survivors in Sri Lanka or plunder the
homes of European tourists reported missing. In stark
contrast to a worldwide outpouring of humanitarian aid
in response to the Dec. 26 tsunami, whose death toll stood
at nearly 145,000 people, a women's group in Sri Lanka
said rapists were preying on homeless survivors. "We
have received reports of incidents of rape, gang rape,
molestation and physical abuse of women and girls in the
course of unsupervised rescue operations and while resident
in temporary shelters," the Women and Media Collective
Save the Children warned that youngsters
orphaned by the tsunami were vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
In Thailand thieves disguised as police and rescue workers
have looted luggage and hotel safes around Khao Lak beach,
where the tsunami killed up to 3,000 people. Sweden sent
seven police officers there to investigate the reported
kidnap of a Swedish boy of 12 whose parents were carried
off by the wave.
Sweden is the hardest hit country outside
the tsunami region with more than 2,500 missing and 52
confirmed dead. But it kept their names secret after some
homes were targetted by thieves. "It is unfortunately
a reality that people who are known to be missing ...
have had their homes gone through and partly emptied,"
State Secretary Lars Danielsson told local radio. Swedish
police could not give details of such break-ins but said
similar incidents of looting had occurred after the 1994
sinking of the Estonia, which killed 551 Swedes. "That
is the reason that we are now so careful about distributing
the names this time," a police spokeswoman said.
Police said a man had been arrested for sending hoax emails
to people who had placed appeals for information about
relatives and friends on a television website. The hoaxer
claimed to have information from the "Foreign Office
Bureau" in Thailand. In Hong Kong, where people are
chipping in generously to the relief effort, the charity
Oxfam warned of a bogus fundraising email that has been
circulating in its name, asking people to send donations
to a bank account in Cyprus.