Last week, a mayoral candidate was shot and killed and 6 others were wounded, including 3 people who were running in local elections and a local kamnan, a government official of a tambon, or sub district. Police say they believe the shooting was politically motivated. Violence related to local politics has been a trend in Thailand over the past few decades.
The gunman, who police suspect is Wanchart Niamraksa, a member of the local provincial administration organisation, opened fire at a temple in Ratchaburi, a province west of Bangkok near the Myanmar border. Witnesses say the gunman fired shots from behind a Buddha image, shooting Yingpan Kanket, the kamnan of tambon Don Sai, was lighting candles and incense sticks to start the funeral. Yingpan is now in critical condition.
Varaporn Niamraksa, who was running for mayor in the March 28 municipal election, was shot and later died at the hospital. Wanchart’s wife was Varaporn’s main competitor in the mayoral election. He’s also Varaporn’s brother-in-law. Wanchart has since surrendered to police.
The gunman shot and wounded 6 others, including 3 who are all running for the municipal council of tambon Don Sai. Police say they plan to charge Wanchart with murder, attempted murder, illegally possessing firearms and ammunition and carrying them in public.
While the story was covered in Thai media, it wasn’t a major headline, according to a Thai reporter. He says there’s been a pattern of politically motivated violence in Thailand. Just this past January, police arrested a man for allegedly planning to kill a local election candidate in the southern province Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Local politics in Thailand were described as “bloody” after the passing of the 1997 Constitution, leading to what the media calls a “decade of decentralisation.”
More than 362 local politicians were murdered between 2000 and 2009, according to date reported by Thai media. There were around 100 other murder attempts on local politicians. Around 73% of the victims who were either killed or wounded were sub district administration organisation representatives. Most were shot.
The majority of cases were in Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla, province’s in Thailand’s deep south near the Malaysian border, plagued with violence for decades due to the religious separatist insurgency.
In recent years, there’s also been a number of reports involving violence among local politicians in Thailand. In 2019, an MP for the Isaan province Khon Kaen was sentenced to death for hiring 2 former police officers to kill the assistant chief of the Khon Kaen provincial administration.
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