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Gen Apirak asks for patience in murder investigations

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET CITY: Phuket Provincial Police Commander Apirak Hongthong has assured the public that investigators are working hard to bring to justice those responsible for a slew of unsolved murders that have shocked the island in recent months.

Speaking after a press conference on August 20, Gen Apirak said provincial police investigators and specialists from Bangkok were working hard on three unsolved shooting murder cases: the June 11 execution of former Kathu Police officer Decho Kaewnabon, who was involved in the smuggling of unregistered Burmese workers; the June 17 slaying of 99 Seafood Restaurant owner Siricahi “Yod” Chaikoo near the Tung Tong Police checkpoint, and the July 18 mafia-style murder of Jintana Shopping Plaza heiress Komkai Kositkoon.

All three victims’ business interests were centered in Patong.

Investigators are also working hard to find the shooter of 57-year-old Dr Benjapol Thongton, owner of the Karon Center Clinic who survived a single gunshot to his lower left ribcage as he was driving in front of Sengho Bookstore on Suthat Rd at 8 am on August 4, Gen Apriak added.

A family squabble over inheritance has been rumored as a possible motive in that attack. The Thongton clan is said to be one of the richest families in Phuket and the victim was scheduled to appear in court the day of the shooting in an inheritance case against a relative, according to one local media report.

Gen Apirak said his officers were “x-raying” several gunmen in the province and working closely with regional police to monitor the movements of suspects thought to be hiding in other provinces.

As some of the gunmen are believed to be involved in multiple murders, it would take time to bring together all the evidence needed to link the crimes and build up a strong criminal case against them, he said.

Gen Apirak described as problematic the case of Komkai Kositkoon, who was involved in at least 10 lawsuits that could be considered as possible motives for her murder. Her assassination was most likely ordered and paid for by an “influential figure,” he said.

A special operations room has been established at Phuket Provincial Police Station to work on these cases, he added.

“These are difficult cases to solve and will take time. Each one is like a jigsaw puzzle; all the evidence has to be put together piece-by-piece before the real picture emerges,” he said.

Unfortunately, composite sketches based on eyewitness accounts in all four cases were thought to be “about 50% accurate” at best, he estimated.

Investigators are now comparing information with lists of known gunmen in Police Regions 8 and 9, he said.

“In all four cases we have about 70% of the required evidence, but we want to make sure we have air-tight cases before we request arrest warrants,” he said.

Gen Apirak admitted that there had been insufficient security screening of vehicles at the Tah Chat Chai police checkpoint due to under-staffing in recent months, but said the situation there should improve in September, when responsibility shifts from Police Region 8 to Provincial Police.

 

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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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