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American Man Killed by Thai Taxi Driver for Refusing to Pay 53 Cent Fare

american man killed by thai taxi driver over fare
Photo from CCTV showing Chidchai and Pilkington struggling on a Bangkok street

51-year-old American, Troy Lee Pilkington, killed for refusing to pay taxi fare

In the 10 years I have lived here, I have lost count of the number of rude, aggressive, arrogant, (farang) western men I’ve met in Thailand. Men who think they own the world, treat Thais like garbage and, while walking around as if they are God, will refuse to pay a taxi fare or a meal over an extra charge of 25 cents.

That’s how cheap some of these guys are.

So, when I heard an American man had been killed by a Thai taxi driver for refusing to pay a taxi fare, I can’t say I was remotely surprised.

Why was Troy Lee Pilkington killed?

According to the Thai news media, American Troy Lee Pilkington got into a fight with a Thai taxi driver on Saturday after the taxi he was in got stuck in traffic on Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s main roads.

According to the taxi driver, Chidchai Utmacha, when Pilkington realized the fare was 51 baht (around $1.68) he shouted angrily at the taxi driver and said he wasn’t paying. He then got out of the taxi, still refusing to pay and, when Chidchai shouted at him that he’d better pay up, Pilkington threw a cup of coffee at him.

He then attempted to walk away.

At this point, Chidchai, obviously furious at firstly being cheated by the American man and secondly being assaulted with a cup of possibly hot coffee (news reports don’t say) reached for the machete he had under his car seat and went after Pilkington.

The two men scuffled on the street but eventually Chidchai got the upper hand and hit Pilkington several times with the machete. 51-year-old Troy Lee Pilkington died a few minutes later.

32-year-old Chidchai fled the scene only to be picked up by Thai police at his apartment on Sunday morning. He is now being held in prison on murder charges.

Did Troy Lee Pilkington die over 53 baht?

Of course, western news media and Thai newspapers are reporting about an American being killed by a Thai taxi driver for refusing to pay a fare of 51 baht. In fact, it’s worse than that.

In Bangkok, the minimum fare for a taxi is 35 baht, or about $1.17. The meter on the taxi showed 51 baht, or 16 baht more than the minimum. Having lived in Thailand for three years, Troy Lee Pilkington would have known the minimum fare was 35 baht.

So, in effect, he lost his life as he refused to pay an extra 16 baht. How much is 16 baht?  53 cents.

Did Troy Lee Pilkington deserve to die over his behavior with the Thai taxi driver?

No, of course not. But, if you walk through life, in Thailand or anywhere else, treating other people as less than human, refusing to pay for things you think you are being cheated over, and then hurling liquid at someone because you’re angry, while murder isn’t an acceptable response, you shouldn’t be too surprised if it happens to you.

Did it happen just as the Thai taxi driver said it did?

And do I believe the situation happened just as the Thai taxi driver said it did? Yes, it probably did, as I have seen it too many times and often with American men, who often seem to be some of the most aggressive people in the world.

In fact, two American men I used to know in Thailand once told me what they said was a “funny story” about an altercation they had had with a Thai taxi driver the previous night when they felt they were being “ripped off”.

They too had climbed out of the taxi refusing to pay but, as they did, one of the men didn’t look carefully enough, and opened the taxi door into oncoming traffic. The door was ripped off by the car that hit it.

So what did the two men do?

They walked away, leaving the Thai taxi driver, who makes less than $15 a day I might add, to deal with the mess.

And this to them was “funny”.

As for the amount they were refusing to pay? Nothing more than just a few cents.