CHON BURI: Somchai Khunplome, aka Kamnan Poh and "Godfather of Chon Buri", died of cancer at a hospital in Muang district early Monday morning. He was 82.
Somchai was pronounced dead at Smitivej Chonburi Hospital at about 3am. Media reported he suffered from colon cancer, which spread to a lung, and other complications.
He was imprisoned in 2013, but paroled in December 2017 due to his advanced age and serious illnesses.
Somchai was sentenced to 25 years for masterminding the murder of his political rival Prayoon Sitthichoke, kamnan of tambon Samet in Chon Buri's Muang district, at a wedding reception in March 2003. The Supreme Court upheld the term in 2012.
He was also given a jail term of five years and four months for corruption involving the 1992 sale of a site in Khao Maikaew forest reserve for use as a garbage dump.
He became a fugitive in 2006 and was on the run for seven years before being arrested in January 2013 by a team of police commandos as he was travelling in a vehicle in eastern Bangkok.
Given time served and royal pardons, he was to serve about six more years in jail before becoming eligible for parole. He was originally scheduled for release in 2035.
Somchai was a son of a former village headman in tambon Saen Suk of Chon Buri, and his life was a rags-to-riches story. From humble beginnings, he became a mini-bus driver and later crewed a fishing trawler. He later won concessions to fish in Cambodian waters, started a mini-bus business and set up a building firm and a quarry.
As mayor of tambon Saen Suk, he was credited with bringing order and cleanliness to tourist spots and showing his commitment to development projects in Chon Buri.
He was also a member of the Chon Buri development coordination committee that supervised 103 local administration organisations around Pattaya.
Somchai had five children: Pattaya mayor Sonthaya Khunplome, Withaya Khunplome, president of the Chon Buri provincial administration organisation, Jiraporn Khunplome, Itthipol Khunplome and Saen Suk mayor Narongchai Khunplome.
His funeral rites were to be held at Wat Chaeng Charoen Don in tambon Saen Suk of Muang district, Chon Buri.