Probes expand after Phangan resort shooting

Probes expand after Phangan resort shooting

Two suspects are taken for a re-enactment of the shooting at Palita Lodge on Koh Phangan in Surat Thani on Saturday. (Photo by Supapong Chaolan)
Two suspects are taken for a re-enactment of the shooting at Palita Lodge on Koh Phangan in Surat Thani on Saturday. (Photo by Supapong Chaolan)

SURAT THANI — Provincial authorities will look into foreigners running tourism businesses on three islands in this southern province following a shooting incident on the full-moon party island of Koh Phangan.

A local mayor is facing an attempted murder charge in connection with the incident that was triggered by neighbours' complaints about the Russian-managed bar that he owns.

Wongsiri Promchana, the Surat Thani governor, said on Saturday that officials would inspect businesses on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. The crackdown follows a shooting at Palita Lodge at Hat Rin beach on Koh Phangan early on Jan 12.  

Police, armed with a court warrant, on Friday evening arrested Chanin Phetsri, 54, after searching his home in Tha Khanom municipality in Khiri Ratthanikhom district on the mainland of the southern province. He is charged with hiring two men to fire shots into the Palita Lodge next door to the property that he owns. Mr Chanin is also the mayor of Tha Khanom.

Seized from his house were .38, 9mm and 11mm pistols and some bullets. Police also searched the houses of the two accused gunmen and found a .38 pistol allegedly used in the attack.

Shortly after the attack, police arrested Jarong Hongthong, 38, manager of the neighbouring Chang Phuek bungalows and Simiram bar. Charged with carrying out the actual shootings were Sihanart Chaipinit, 62, and Jirat Khuadkaew, 38. The incident caused panic among tourists but no injuries were reported.

The Chang Phuek bungalows and Simiram bar are owned by Mr Chanin, who leased the bar to a Russian businessman to operate.

Chanin Phetsri, 54, answers police questions following his arrest for allegedly ordering the intimidation shootings on Koh Phangan.

Police on Saturday took Mr Sihanart and Mr Jarong for a re-enacement of the incident. Mt Jirat remains at large.

Mr Sihanart confessed that Mr Jarong gave him a revolver at the bar on Jan 12. He then walked along the beach to fire shots into Palita Lodge before going back to the bar to return the gun. Mr Jarong showed police where he had buried the .357 revolver near the Chang Phuek bungalows.

After the re-enactment, officers took the two suspects and Mr Chanin to the Koh Samui provincial court to seek approval for the detention of the trio. Investigators are opposing bail.

Police have charged Mr Chanin with hiring others to carry out a crime in a premeditated attempt to kill others. He denied all charges. The officers also charged Mr Sihanart and Mr Jirat with colluding in the attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms without permission.

Pol Maj Gen Apichart Bunsriroj, chief of the Surat Thani police, said the shootings stemmed from a business conflict. Local residents and the operator of the Palita Lodge had earlier complained that the Simiram bar often held noisy parties with loud music that disturbed others.

The Hat Rin Tourism Operators Club had recently resolved to ask the Simiram bar to cease operations, said the chief. This apparently angered those who stood to lose business opportunities and led to the hiring of the gunmen to fire shots into Palita Lodge, whose owner had made the complaint.

Mr Chanin has denied the charges against him but investigators had evidence to implicate him and his men in the shooting incident, said Pol Maj Gen Apichart.

The Surat Thani governor and the provincial police chief later led a team of 50 officers from a special warfare unit to search four locations linked with the Russian businessman who operates the Simiram bar. The four locations included two residences and two entertainment venues on Koh Phangan.

The search was intended to find additional evidence linked to the shooting incident, they said.

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