An all-night funeral vigil ended in a hail of gunfire when a fight broke out because one of the guests was unable to speak Southern Thai – after being ordered to by a local drunk. The unfortunate incident took place at the funeral of Aree Khaemungkhalo, whose pals were up drinking through the night of April 2-3 in order to “keep her corpse company” (pen phuean sob) at her home in Tambon Bangbon, Phattalung Province. Among the assembled mourners were a group of Chiang Mai natives who had formed a wong lao (drinking circle). It was not reported how the gentlemen from the north came to be at the funeral, but it appears from the surnames of the victims that some were related to local residents. Whatever the case, the men had apparently had not been in the area long enough to pick up the rapid-fire local dialect, which differs greatly from the slower northern version of Thai. As the Chiang Mai men were getting drunk, Phattalung native Preecha Kingtongmak, 53, stumbled up and asked to sit with them. Before long, he demanded that one of the northerners, 40-year-old Junkaew Sakda, speak in the Southern dialect. Junkaew’s inability to do so led to a heated argument that eventually turned into a violent brawl, the men using whatever heavy objects they could find to bash one another. The contretemps ended when shots ran out and bodies began to drop. The six men hit were listed as: Junkaew, Preecha and his relative, Man Kingtongmak, 38; Chaiwut Poongate, 32; Somyot Poongate, 32; Theerayuth Poongate, 40. All except K. Junkaew were listed as residents of Chiang Mai. Each was hit at least once in the torso with a .38 caliber bullet, and most of the men were also covered in bruises sustained in the brawl. At the Bangkaew Hospital in neighboring Bangkaew District, where the men were rushed for treatment, the injuries to Preecha, Chaiwut and Junkaew were listed as critical. They were later transferred to a better-equipped hospital in Haad Yai, Songkhla, about one hour’s drive to the south. Police investigator Sub Lt Methapong Narkpalad said it was too early to determine who had fired the bullets, but said police believed it was somebody who was attending the funeral vigil, not an outsider. Three or four suspects, including the victims, remained to be questioned, he said. Lt Methapong said the brawl was unrelated to recent political events. Just days before the attack a group of Democrat Party leaders were attacked by an angry mob in Chiang Mai, the power base of Thai Rak Thai Party leader Thaksin Shinawatra. “This was just a typical drunken brawl between citizens that got out of hand. It has nothing to do with the Democrat Party members being driven out of Chiang Mai,” he said.
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