Thailand

Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Two guards gunned down at rubber rally; Case of missing Saudi reopened; DSI ‘allowing itself to be manipulated’ – Phinyo Thongchai; Supermodel downfall; Magical boy

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Tension rises after killing of protesters
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Tension at the week-long rubber growers’ rally in Cha-uat in Nakhon Si Thammarat intensified early yesterday when unidentified men opened fire on volunteer guards, killing one and seriously wounding another.

The shooting came just two days before tomorrow’s mass protest planned for farmers from 14 southern provinces in Surat Thani, raising fears that the transportation blockades could turn bloody.

Tempers flared, as the protesters suspect the attack was planned by state officials.

Meanwhile, Governor Wirote Jiwarangsan and Maj-General Ronnapong Saikaew, the provincial police chief, denied any involvement by the authorities, saying they had no policy to crack down on protesters.

They offered a Bt150,000 bounty for the attackers. Ronnapong also urged the farmers to give forensic police access to the scene.

Wirote offered his condolences and said if what happened tarnished the image of the province, he was willing to be transferred out.

Five shots were reportedly fired at the rubber farmers blocking the Ban Toon railway crossing, hitting Sirichai Boonnuwong, 29, in the eye and chest and Sitthisak Chaingam, 25, in the neck and left cheek. Sirichai was pronounced dead at Maharaj Hospital at 8.45am, while Sitthisak was still in a critical condition at press time.

Ronnapong had earlier quoted a doctor who treated Sitthisak as saying prior to surgery that Sirichai had a fight with someone and was killed.

Ronnapong claimed drunks were among the demonstrators and they argued almost every day.

He affirmed that police would investigate thoroughly.

Lad “Khai Mhook” Seng-iad, one of the rally leaders, gathered protesters to control the scene and gave instructions for reporters to be thoroughly checked to “prevent officials from sneaking in”.

The government must be held accountable for what happened, he said.

The protesters would pick up Sirichai’s body to take to the protest site for religious rites. He affirmed the protest would be escalated.

Yongyos Kaewkhiew, president of the Association of Kamnan and Village Heads, said local government leaders vowed their support for the protest and urged the government to solve the problem of falling rubber prices.

Democrat Party MP Thepthai Senpong, who represents the province, urged decision-makers to talk to the demonstrators.

The protest could end if the government was sincere about tackling the problems, he said.

Thaworn Senniam, an MP for Songkhla, said police seemed to have jumped to the conclusion that the shooting was by protesters. But this had stirred up suspicion because police had not inspected the scene.

Apichat Karikanjana, an MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat, said he was inclined to blame state officials for trying to stir up trouble. He called on the government to correct reports that the protesters were outsiders when they were actually locals.

National Police chief Adul Saengsingkaew urged officers to investigate with transparency, base findings on evidence and keep the public posted.

Paradorn Pattanatabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council, said officials suspected a personal conflict or trouble between protesters from outside the area, who were the majority, and the locals, although they didn’t totally rule out a third party.

Since the incident took place at night, investigators would need time to gather evidence, he said.

The mass protest on Tuesday would take place only in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani, so officials could keep the situation under control, he said.

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit dismissed reports that the government spent Bt200 million to lobby northern and northeastern rubber planters to stay away from the protest tomorrow.

He also denied that the gun attack was done by state officials.

Narongsak Wanwichaikul, a representative of Chaiyaphum rubber planters, said they backed out of the nationwide protest because most were satisfied with the government’s offers, including a Bt1,260-per-rai fertilizer subsidy and the promise to add Bt40 to every kilogram of rubber that the farmers sold at Bt80.

They decided to give the government some time –15 days – to implement the measures first, he said.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s Thailand news pages, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter @PhuketGazette for the latest national news updates.

Focus on gold ring in case of missing Saudi
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A relative of missing Saudi Arabia businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili does not believe the gold ring, which led to the re-opening of the case, belonged to his brother.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation yesterday, Matrouk al-Ruwili, who is in town to testify in the case of his brother who went missing in 1989, said his brother was a very religious man, so there was no way that he would wear a golden ring.

“Muslim men wear only silver. Women could wear silver or gold. He [Mohammad] would never wear this ring,” Matrouk said. Matrouk and Ateeg al-Ruwaili, the businessman’s other brother, will testify in the trial today.

“We have to tell the truth about the ring. This is something that we did not want to be [misleading], even if it would prove someone was involved in this – but no, we have to tell the truth about the ring,” Matrouk said.

Asked if it was possible that the businessman’s disappearance was connected to internal issues in Saudi Arabia, Matrouk said Mohammed had never been involved in politics.

Public prosecutors earlier said UAE-based Kiattikorn Kaewphalue (known formerly as Pol Lt-Colonel Suwitchai Kaewphalue) possessed knowledge of a gold ring worn by al-Ruwaili, which had led to the reopening of the case and the current trial involving five policemen suspected of having been behind the disappearance of al-Ruwaili.

Pol Lt-General Somkhid Bunthanom, one of the five suspects in al-Ruwaili’s disappearance trial, accused public prosecutors, police investigators and Department of Special Investigation agents of getting Kiattikorn out of the country illegally, after immigration officers detected his plan for banned overseas travel. Matrouk said he was under no pressure to testify in the trial and would feel nothing if placed face to face with the defendants (click here for The Nation’s article dated Nov 26, 2009).

What the family wanted was the truth and for those who abducted his brother to be punished, he said. “Let us imagine that your family member went missing – you would certainly want to know the truth,” he said.Thailand’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been frosty ever since a Thai worker stole jewellery belonging to the Saudi royal family in 1989. A year later, a Saudi businessma

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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