PHUKET AIRPORT: Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Banyat Banthadtan was today scheduled to meet with villagers from Pa Khlok to listen to their views about the recent assassination of environmental activist Jurin Rachapol. The meeting was arranged to allow the villagers to make an official request to K. Banyat – whose ministry is in charge of Thailand’s police – to expedite the investigation. Villagers have told the Gazette that they have little faith in the ability of the Thalang police to solve the case swiftly, and that they plan to stage a “mob” if there is no arrest by Wednesday. The Governor of Phuket, Pongpayome Vasaputi, told the villagers on Thursday that the investigation could take as long as a month, and asked them to be patient. K. Jurin, 50, was assassinated on January 30 while out collecting cashew nut leaves for salad. He was shot three times; two bullets hit his left shoulder while the third hit his head, killing him instantly. K. Jurin was one of about 100 activists in the village who oppose the establishment of a prawn farm in protected mangrove forest nearby. Villagers say that the killing and the earlier attempted murder of another activist, Siripoj Cheechang, have resulted in a climate of fear in the village. Minister Banyat was in Phuket to officiate at the opening today of the National Chamber of Commerce Seminar.
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