EXCLUSIVE: Thai woman brutally attacked on BART shares story, says 'feels like we're the target'

ByLiz Kreutz and Dion Lim KGO logo
Thursday, May 20, 2021
EXCLUSIVE: Thai woman brutally attacked on BART shares story
A Thai woman is sharing her story after she was the victim of a brutal attack and robbery while riding BART to work in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Every day, when Mantakarn Seenin takes BART to work, she wears a small, nondescript purse, pulls her hair back in to a bun to make her look more like a boy, and carries pepper spray. But even all those precautions were not enough.

This week, Seenin, a 34-year-old immigrant from Thailand, was the target of the exact type of attack she's been hoping to prevent.

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"I just say, I never thought it was going to happen with me, because I'm the one that was always like 'be careful, be safe,'" Seenin said in an exclusive interview with ABC7 News.

On Tuesday around 8 a.m., Seenin was commuting to work on BART, and nearing Civic Center in San Francisco, when a stranger approached her and demanded she hand over her cell phone. Seenin refused and he immediately began to attack her.

"He just started punching me so many times. Like hit me. Just punching me on my face," she recalled.

When the train stopped, the attacker ran off leaving Seenin bloody, phoneless and scared. Two good Samaritans on the train jumped in to help. They called police and waited with her until they arrived.

"I just want to know who they are," she said. "I want to say thank you to them, but I don't have my phone and then I was shocked the whole time."

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Seenin moved from Thailand to San Francisco eight years ago. She currently works two jobs at two different restaurants. Since hearing of the recent violent attacks on Asian-Americans, she has been extra careful when commuting to work.

"I have pepper spray. I don't have anything else. I just carry my card, some cash, 3 to 5 dollars in my pocket," she said. "I try to be safe so nobody will pay attention to me. I don't have anything fancy on myself, but it still happened."

We asked Seenin if she believes she was targeted because of her race.

"I'm not pretty sure, but I feel like I'm a girl, like a small Asian girl. Maybe it's easy for them to kind of like, to steal something from me," she said. "That's what I thought. "

She said the attacker cursed at her but did not say any racial slurs. Still, she wonders why she was the target when there were others on the train, too.

"Why me?" she asked. "It feels like we are the target."

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BART Police say they are investigating the attack. So far, a suspect has not been identified.

Seenin, who lives in San Francisco with her husband, is frustrated. She feels she needs to take time off work at a restaurant for her face to heal and now has extra medical bills.

"Then I have to pay for that, and I didn't do anything wrong. Why is this happening to me? I have to take care of everything," she said.

Still, Seenin is hoping her story brings awareness to some of the continued attacks in the Bay Area. She also hopes to change the narrative: Those that have been targeted are not weak - but strong.

"I'm -- we're -- not weak. That's what it is," she said. "We're not weak. We have to speak up for yourself."