Gambler 'Sia Po' arrested, charged over shooting outside massage shop

Gambler 'Sia Po' arrested, charged over shooting outside massage shop

Apirak "Sia Po" Chat-anon. (His Facebook photo)

Professed gambler Apirak “Sia Po" Chat-anon was arrested after he turned himself in to police for questioning about a wild shootout in Bangkok in which two men were wounded. He was released on bail later.

Mr Apirak, 28, and his brother Khemmathat Chat-anon, 25, were accompanied by Santhana Prayoonra, a  former deputy superintendent of Special Branch Police, when they reported to Pol Capt Somkiart Kitprapanan, deputy investigation chief at Phasicharoen police station, around 3am on Thursday.

Mr Apirak, aka “Sia Po’’, a self-professed gambler, was accused of shooting and wounding two men in front of Saree Sauna&Spa shop on Ratchaphreuk Road in Bang Wa area, Phasicharoen district, on Tuesday night. 

He told police that he was a regular customer at the massage shop. He was there with three friends. His brother Khemmathat had made an appointment with two rival men, identified only as Tang and Tua, to meet at a liquor store on the same road, not far from the massage shop.

The talks broke down and afterwards Mr Khemmathat and about 10 friends came to meet him at the massage shop, Mr Apirak said.

He claimed that a group of his brother's rivals, about 200 strong, then arrived. He saw one of them pull out a gun and point it at him, and he quickly ran away.

Mr Apirak claimed more than 60 gunshots were fired. He had fled for his safety when the first shot was fired, he said.

He told police he had not been carrying a firearm. After the shooting, he and his younger brother had filed a complaint with police.

He asked that deputy national police chief Pol Gen Suchart Theerasawat examine recordings of security cameras, as his group numbered only a few men.

Police from Phasichaoren station, armed with a court warrant, then arrested him on charges of colluding in attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm, carrying it in public and firing shots.

His relatives prepared one million baht as surety for bail, but Mr Santhana said he would act as guarantor for Mr Apirak.

On Thursday morning, police searched Mr Apirak's family home, a row of seven four-storey commercial buildings on Soi Phetkasem 44 of Phetkasem Road in Phasicharoen district.

They reported finding nothing illegal inside the premises, which house the family business, a garment and cloth screening factory.

The shooting occurred in front of the Saree Sauna & Spa shop on Ratchaphruek Road about 10.30pm on Tuesday.

Two men with gunshot wounds were taken to Siriraj Hospital. The wounded men were identified by Thai media as Natthapong Khlongbanchee, who was shot in the backside, and Chamriang Tabor, who was reported to have been shot in the mouth.

Mr Natthapong's older sister, Natda Khlongbanchee, posted a photo from the shooting scene on her Facebook page, and said there were CCTV cameras at the shop and called for justice for the victims.

Mr Santhana, a former police lieutenant colonel, said he, as a guarantor of Sia Po, placed 400,000 baht cash as a bail surety. He did not know whether police would allow bail or not. They would have to await the arrival of "Sia Ken", a close associate of Sia Po, who was also named on the arrest warrant in this case, Mr Santhana said.

He would escort the man, who was not otherwise identified, to surrender to police later on Thursday. He expected they would both be released on bail. The two men had permanent residences and were not flight risks, nor would they interfere with evidence.

Mr Apirak's mother, Banyen Charnnara, 47, said on Thursday morning she agreed to let police search all areas of the premises. She took photos during the search as evidence, she added.

The officers did not seize anything because they found nothing illegal, Ms Banyen said. She was not worried, because she knew what happened and why police had to search the house.

Police should also search the houses her son’s rivals, she said. They carried guns.

Mr Apirak's guarantor, Santhana Prayoonra, was sacked from the police force for serious disciplinary violations and stripped of his rank, effective Oct 31, 2002, and his royal decorations were recalled. The announcement was published in the Royal Gazette on Oct 30, 2018, as reported by Thai media.

Phasicharoen investigators took Mr Apirak to the court to seek approval to detain him for 12 days pending the questioning of 15 more witnesses and forensic probe results in the shootout in Bangkok on Tuesday night.

The Thon Buri Criminal Court granted him temporary release on bail with a surety of 350,000 baht. No conditions were set for his release.

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