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BC’s Tales of the Pacific | Murder by HIV

WE have a delicate and difficult legal battle coming out of Thailand.  A soldier who knew he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, raped many dozens of teenagers.

Let’s get the facts of the case and then talk about the legal and moral dilemmas.

Sgt. Maj. Jakkrit Khomsing, 43, of the military forces of Thailand was arrested and charged in connection with over 70 victims between the ages of 13 and 18.  He is charged with sex with a minor with or without their consent, indecent assault of a minor with the use of threats, separating a minor from their parents without reason, blackmail, and coercing a minor to conduct inappropriate acts.  This is just the beginning of the indictment.  There are several dozen counts of each offense and dozens of other offenses will likely be added before Khomsing goes to trial.

Khomsing used social media such as Facebook to lure his victims into relationships with him.  He created phony profiles, engaged teen boys in conversation, convinced them he was gay and that he wanted to see nude pictures of them.  After they sent the photos he arranged to meet with them, at which point he would force them into sexual acts, using the nude pictures as bribery.  If they failed to obey him he threatened to release their photos. 

This predatory behavior went on for months or even years.  As if this behavior was not heinous enough, Khomsing did all of this while he suffered with HIV.  He engaged in high-risk sexual behavior with the knowledge that he was likely infecting his partners.  Police found HIV medications in his home, so he could not claim he was not aware he had the disease.

What makes a person do something like this?  Why would someone deliberately infect someone with HIV, a disease with no known cure?  And why choose teenage boys as victims? 

What does the law say about such behavior?  It differs from country to country.  Can a person be charged with murder for deliberately infecting someone with an incurable disease?  No one has been killed yet, we don’t have a dead body, so how can there be a murder charge?  This is slippery legal ground.  The most you can count on is an assault charge, but that seems too lenient for such a crime.  Perhaps we can charge the person with assault now in order to get a conviction and put the person behind bars, then charge them for murder once the victim actually dies.  Not in the United States, you can’t.  That would be double jeopardy, being charged for the same crime twice.  Perhaps the laws in Thailand are different on this point.

What will become of Khomsing’s victims?  There are around 70 that we know of.  How many more are out there?  The best they can hope for is a life of prescription drugs, therapy and constant hospitalization.  Their medical treatment will cost them and society millions.  The worst they can fear is they will wither and die.  AIDS is a remorseless killer.

What will become of Khomsing himself?  What is the appropriate punishment for such a cold-blooded animal?  Has he forfeited his right to live among a civilized people?  Is he fit only for death?  If he is given a sentence of life in prison, how do we explain it to the families of his victims if he outlives them?  Man’s savagery has outpaced his justice.

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He travels the Pacific but currently resides on the mainland U.S.