Angry residents set vehicles ablaze in Phuket riot

Angry residents set vehicles ablaze in Phuket riot

About 300 angry residents laid siege to the Thalang police station in Phuket in a riot on Saturday night and set fire on a number of vehicles to demand justice after two young men were killed when their motorbike crashed with a police vehicle going after them in hot pursuit.

The residents agreed to disperse at 3.30am Sunday after Maj Gen Thinachat Jindangern, commander of the 41st Army Circle, intervened and promised to arrange for the relatives of the dead and police to meet for talks at 9am today.

The problem began at about 11am on Saturday when two young men, identified later as Pathomwat Panarak, 22, and Thirapong Srisamut, 17, both of Ban Don vilage in Phuket's Thalang district, sped on a motorcycle past a police checkpoint in a suspicious manner.

This prompted police to gave chase on a pick-up truck.  The chase ended up in the police vehicle colliding with the fleeing motorcycle.  Pathomwat and Thirapong were seriously injured in the collision.  They were pronounced dead on being admitted to Thalang Hospital.

Police said 50 methamphetamine pills were found in the body of one of them and nearly one kilogramme of krathom leaves in the back pack carried by the other.

The death of the two young men caused their relatives to become angry.  About 100 residents went to Thalang police station in protest.  They accused the police of overact. 

They smashed the glass partition of the office of the Thalang police superintendent and damaged many other articles in the police station.

They blocked Thepkasattri road in front of the police station with steel barriers and set up tents, completely closing the traffic to and from the Phuket town.

Air passengers to the Phuket airport were advised to take a de tour.  Some of them arrived late at the airport and missed their flights.

Pol Maj Gen Pachara Boonyasit, the Phuket police chief, and district officials rushed to the scene to calm down the protesters.

The siege continued into the night and at about 10.30pm, when 15 anti-riot police arrived to reinforce the 30-strong police force to protect the police station, the protesters poured petrol on police vehicles parked in the area set them on fire.

Fire engines were called to put out the fire, but they could not break through the cordon of the protesters to work.  At least nine vehicles were completely damaged.

At 2.30am, Pol Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, the police spokesman, posted in the Twitter page announcing that four police officers who were involved in the incident had been transferred to the Region 8 Provincial Police headquarters, pending investigation.

They are Pol Lt Suchart Luecha, Pol Sr Sgt Maj Prasai Phuengphalom, Pol L/Cpl Kanthapol Kongnooketum and Pol L/Cpl Panuwit Kaewsang.

Pol Gen Prawut called for the protesters to disperse for the sake of law and order and the province's tourism.

Maj Gen Thinachat, commander of the 41st Army Circle, and a number of soldiers arrived at the scene at 3.30am and negotiated with the protesters.

He called for them to disperse and promised to arrange for the relatives of the dead to meet for talks with the police at the Ban Don community hall at 9am.  Maj Gen Thinachat said he would also be present at the talks.

The protesters were satisfied and dispersed.

Pol Gen Prawut said on Sunday morning in Bangkok that Pol Gen Chakthip Chaichinda, the police chief, had ordered the police to ensure justice to all sides and settle the dispute through negotiations.

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