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Armed Navy personnel lead 200-strong Phuket land raid

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: More than 200 officers under armed escort by Royal Thai Navy personnel arrested five suspects for violent intimidation of villagers in Phuket’s Soi Palai area early this morning.

The three-hour raid, which began before dawn, targeted a gang of about 20 men who attacked 14 local villagers’ homes yesterday and destroyed property in broad daylight.

Police and Navy officers conducted a house-to-house search for the suspects.

“We immediately dispatched officers to stop the attack after receiving a complaint from the villagers yesterday,” Vice Admiral Taratorn Kajitsuwan of Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command explained to the Phuket Gazette this morning.

Armed Navy personnel arrived to find the attack underway.

“We arrested some of the men yesterday, who were literally caught in the act of destroying homes. Some of them were armed with guns and knives,” Vice Admiral Taratorn said.

“This morning was a mop-up operation, hoping to catch the rest of the gang.”

Vice Admiral Taratorn did not disclose how many men were arrested yesterday, but confirmed that five suspects were taken into custody this morning.

“Three of the men arrested today were already wanted on arrest warrants for suspected land encroachment,” he said.

“One of the other two suspects apprehended was found in illegal possession of a 9mm handgun and 13 rounds of ammunition. The other was found in possession of kratom leaves,” said Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Arun Kaewvatee, who co-ordinated the raid today.

All five suspects were taken to Chalong Police Station for questioning, Col Arun confirmed.

“Naval officers will join police in questioning the suspects further,” Vice Admiral Taratorn added.

The land where the Soi Palai villagers were attacked is under dispute, the naval commander explained.

“Claims to the land are currently being heard in court, with villagers and business owners both saying they own plots in the area,” he said.

Violent intimidation over land grabs is not new to the Soi Palai area, which is on the edge of one of the largest mangrove forests on Phuket’s southeast coast (story here).

For years, local villagers have complained about mangroves being cleared in order to make way for new houses (story here).

In March last year, Governor Maitri Inthusut ordered an immediate investigation into an arson attack after local villagers’ shanty homes were set alight in the middle of the night while the families were asleep inside (story here).

— Kritsada Mueanhawong

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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