Christmas dinner cost a holidaying Hong Kong couple more than they bargained for when they returned to their Phuket hotel room to find goods worth US$20,000 missing from their safe.
Tamara Robins, 28, and Derryn Ruolle, 29, returned to their room at the four-star Manathai hotel at Surin beach on the Thai island's west coast to find the door ajar and the safe open.
Gone were laptops, a camera, a mobile phone, a purse containing cash and credit cards, the couple's wedding and engagement rings and another precious ring that once belonged to Tamara's great-grandmother.
'If only I'd worn the rings to dinner,' a tearful Tamara said. But the biggest shock came when the couple were told that the resort would be offering only a refund on their room as compensation.
The resort's management argued that they had no way of verifying the value of the goods left in the safe and the expenses were waived 'to show concern and support'.
Resort manager Tanadol Pongkhankam said he hoped the police could resolve the case and that the guests would get back the stolen items. But compensation was out of the question.
The decision not to offer compensation came even after a data log showed that the safe was last opened by the resort's master key, which is usually kept at the front desk, just a few metres from the restaurant where the couple had dinner.
Investigating officer Lieutenant Sarit Bootnongsang said 10 members of staff had been interviewed about the theft, but he described the resort management as 'unhelpful'.
Robins and Ruolle, Australians who live in Mid-Levels, remain shocked and angry. Although both acknowledge they should have had travel insurance, they believe the resort has a moral obligation to compensate them and have engaged a lawyer to pursue further action.
Thefts that are probably inside jobs are not uncommon on Phuket, which has suffered from revelations of jet-ski scams, rip-offs, drink-spiking thefts and other crimes. Worse, authorities on the island have not always assisted those in trouble.
A Russian man whose leg was badly cut by the propeller of a parasail speedboat as he swam at Kata beach early last month was left to languish in a local hospital. No effort was made to reprimand the driver of the speedboat or enforce compensation. The official who oversees Phuket's speedboats and jet-skis, Phuripat Theerakulpisut, merely described the incident as 'natural'.
One expat resident of 10 years' standing said Patong, the nightlife hub on Phuket's west coast, was 'completely and utterly out of control' when it came to protecting tourists from scams and rip-offs.
Drink-spiking and theft is rife - Asian male visitors are a popular target - but few victims report the crime, possibly out of embarrassment.
Direct flights from Hong Kong and other regional destinations have helped to attract two million international visitors to Phuket this year.