Governor shuts the Shark
PHUKET: The biggest disco in Phuket, Patong’s Shark Club & Discotheque, was today ordered closed permanently on instructions from the Minister of Interior, Purachai Piemsomboon. The closure order, announced by Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi, came after it was discovered that the operating license for the disco – which can hold more than 1,500 revelers at a time – contained irregularities and had, in any case, expired. Gov Pongpayome said that it would not be renewed. The check on the license followed the publication, in the Thai newspaper Khao Sod, of photographs showing male customers kneeling with their hands behind their backs, eating ice cream out of cups gripped between girls’ thighs. The photographs, Khao Sod claimed, had been taken by a Thai tourist who had been scandalized by the entertainment. After a meeting of top officials today, Gov Pongpayome also displayed photographs of girls dancing semi-naked amid a crowd of onlookers in the club, which he said were taken in the club in July or August last year. He did not reveal where the photos had come from, but the Gazette understands they were provided by members of the local press. “This kind of behavior conflicts with Thai culture,” Gov Pongpayome said. Even though the pictures were taken last year, he added, they still showed illegal acts. Kevin Radke, the Canadian managing director of Mirage Entertainment Group, which owns the Shark Club, told the Gazette this evening, “All of this is just slanderous and not true.” Saying that the photographs were “not recent”, he accused the Thai press of “showing them out of context. They put little censor bars on them when there was nothing to censor. These are games that are played everywhere in the world.” He denied that the operating license was irregular, pointing out, “We went through all of the [correct] steps and all of the appropriate officials came and inspected our building, checked that everything was in order, and we were allowed to open.” The Governor said he had ordered Immigration Police Superintendent Col Apirak Hongtong to conduct rigorous checks on the passports, visas and work permits issued to Mr Radke and to the club’s general manager, Bob Hunt. In addition, he said that if it was found that Thai government officials or armed forces members were among those in the photographs, they would be hauled before a provincial inquiry or, if stationed outside Phuket, reported to the Ministry of Interior in Bangkok. The club was one of several visited by K. Purachai two weeks ago during a whirlwind tour of the island, but evaded closure. Mr Radke said changes to the club’s safety equipment and layout were currently being made in order to comply with local authority orders issued after K. Purachai’s visit. Asked what he thought had sparked the publication of the photos and the subsequent actions announced by the authorities, Mr Radke said, “There are always lots of stories. One is that we had a key member of staff leave on not such good terms, who is trying to hurt the business. I believe that’s the key. “If the place was a bad place, there wouldn’t be so many people there every night,” he said, adding, “I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong, so I want to clear some of this so that the truth comes out, not these distorted stories. We try to run a very clean operation. “My other big concern is my staff. We have over 130, and if we close, all of these people lose jobs, and some of them have children and families. And then it goes down the line to beer suppliers and everything else. Obviously it will hurt me, but it will also hurt a lot of other people.”
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