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‘It was an accident’: Wanphen’s killer tells Phuket press

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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‘It was an accident’: Wanphen’s killer tells Phuket press | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Retired US Navy serviceman Ronald Fanelli, who confessed to stabbing to death bar hostess Wanphen Pienjai last month, described the killing as a “terrible accident”, saying he never intended to harm her.

Clean-shaven and appearing somewhat disoriented, Ronald Fanelli, 37, was presented in handcuffs to the media at a press conference chaired by Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pekad Tantipong at 9am today.

On the table in front of him were a pair of camouflage shorts he was wearing at the time of the murder, the switchblade used to kill Wanphen and a small bag belonging her, as well as a mobile phone and SIM card.

Other evidence seized by police, but not presented today, included a foam mattress and the motorbike used to dispose of Wanphen’s body, which was stuffed into a large suitcase and dumped in a remote part of Wichit, several kilometers from Mr Fanelli’s rented home, also in Wichit.

After a brief statement outlining the details of the case, Mr Fanelli told the press flatly, “I killed her.”

He had been treated fairly by police, he added.

The atmosphere at the press conference was somber, with many officers showing sympathy to Mr Fanelli, who now faces the rest of his life behind bars in a Thai prison.

Phuket City Police Superintendent Wanchai Ekpornpit told the Gazette that Mr Fanelli initially denied the charges, but changed his mind when confronted with evidence including CCTV images and recorded telephone conversations.

Police also explained to him that pleading guilty to a murder charge customarily leads Thai judges to commute a death sentence to life imprisonment.

Mr Fanelli, originally from New York and a former US Navy lieutenant who served aboard the USS Nevada, said he came to Thailand about three years ago and has lived here since.

Asked if he were the same Ronald Fanelli who was a former professional poker player who gambled in tournaments under the name “MadYank”, he laughed briefly with a tone of bitter irony before replying, “Yes, but that was a long time ago.”

Mr Fanelli declined to comment on the motive for the murder, asking reporters to read his statement to police.

Phuket City Police Superintendent Wanchai Ekpornpit told reporters after the press conference that several factors appeared to have contributed to Mr Fanelli’s mental state at the time of the stabbing: he was drunk; his Thai wife had left him and taken their young child back to her native Maha Sarakham province in Isarn. He had also recently lost his Internet connection, he noted.

Altogether, this caused the former sailor to “snap” when Ms Wanphen approached him playfully in his bedroom asking for sex, Col Wanchai said.

Mr Fanelli stabbed Ms Wanphen once in the back then again in the chest, Col Wanchai added.

Mr Fanelli was drunk at the time of his arrest and the exact timing of events remains unclear, Col Wanchai said, but added that it appeared Wanphen had stayed with him for about one day before she was murdered.

In a re-enactment of the murder carried out earlier, Mr Fanelli told officers that he carried the suitcase in front of him while he rode his motorbike to where he dumped Wanphen’s body off Chao Fa Thani Rd in Wichit.

Ms Wanphen’s wrists and ankles were found broken, apparently so her body could be stuffed into the suitcase.

The re-enactment also revealed that Mr Fanelli returned home and hid the switchblade above the gypsum tile roof, then rented a house in Kata to avoid detection by police.

Maj Gen Pekad said the arrest followed several days of surveillance.

Phuket Police were under intense pressure to bring Ms Wanphen’s killer to justice.

High-ranking officers at the Royal Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok as well as Region 8 commanders in Surat Thani had taken a strong interest in the investigation and were sent frequent updates, Maj Gen Pekad said.

Police Region 8 Commissioner Pol Maj Gen Pitak Jarusombat came to Phuket to personally oversee the arrest, he added.

The murder sent shock waves throughout the bar industry across Phuket, with “mamasans” taking extra precautions to screen potential customers.

Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, but enforcement of anti-prostitution laws is rare in cases involving consenting adults.

— Stephen Fein & Atchaa Khamlo

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Thailand

Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao join UNESCO’s learning cities | The Thaiger
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3 cities in Thailand recently joined UNESCO’s membership of so called “learning cities” which are said to promote “lifelong learning” and sustainable development. Chachoengsao, Chiang Mai and Phuket joined the UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities. Altogether, 55 cities from 27 countries, adding up to 230 cities in 64 countries around the world, according to UNESCO.

“These cities are outstanding examples of how lifelong learning can become a reality at local level. They have proven that effective lifelong learning policies and practices can support the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and contribute to the 2030 Agenda.”

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning David Atchoarena says the recent new members have shown that they can make “lifelong learning a reality,” even after enduring the pandemic.

“With unprecedented urgency, the Covid-19-19 pandemic has underlined the necessity to build more resilient education systems for the future. With more than half of humanity living in urban areas, cities must be at the centre of this undertaking.”

David says he hopes it will inspire other cities in Thailand to follow.

“I very much hope that we will see many other cities from Thailand joining the network and working on providing lifelong learning opportunities for all to ensure a sustainable and peaceful future.”

The mayor of Chachoengsao, Kolayuth Chaisang, says his goal is to provide “effective education, thoroughly and equally to all citizens.” According to the Bangkok Post, the city is a key urban centre both economically and culturally.

The mayor of Chiang Mai, Tussanai Buranupakorn, says he wants to revitalise the city, while also maintaining the cultural significance. The city has a number of educational institutes, which goes along with UNESCO’s learning city principles.

Phuket is a hub of sustainable creativity, according to the Bangkok Post. The mayor of Phuket, Somjai Suwansupana, says he wants to preserve the city’s “identity, local wisdom assets and the charm of our multiculturalism.”

SOURCES: UNESCO |Bangkok Post

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Phuket

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siangtai/Newshawk Phuket

A newborn baby was found on a bench at a neighborhood by Phuket’s Patong Road. The baby boy was wrapped in cloth and left inside a reusable shopping bag. The bag also had a bottle of milk, diapers and clothing.

A woman walking by early in the morning heard the baby crying. She followed the cries and found the baby on the bench. She called police and calmed the baby, feeding him milk that was left in the bag.

Police took the baby to the Patong Hospital. The baby, about a week old, is in good health, police say.

“Police and rescue workers together rushed to the scene and called Patong Hospital to have a medical team meet us there … This baby is healthy and does not appear to have suffered any injuries. He is now safe and being cared for at Patong Hospital.”

Police are reviewing surveillance camera footage to see if they can track down the mother, or whoever left the baby behind.

Newborn baby found on bench in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

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Visa

Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations

The Thaiger

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Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations | The Thaiger

Confusion reigns. It was predictable and many people, despite months of warnings, have left their visa extensions to the last minute. Meanwhile Thai immigration don’t appear to be making the process easy as The Thaiger has received multiple comments from foreigners visiting the various immigration offices around the country and encountering ‘local’ applications of the published guidelines and, in some cases, demands for additional paperwork.

A note to The Thaiger, we won’t publish the person’s name, from Phuket where a person applying for an extension to their visa has been given something less than the 30 days promised by the government.

“On Monday Phuket Immigration was only giving 14 day ‘conditional’ VISA extensions from the date of application, not from September 26. They announced this was to allow time to “investigate and verify” the need for the extension.

So basically we paid 1900 baht for a 14 day extension. After announcing this many people left as many que numbers were called and nobody came up. They said if that were the case they would come back later in the week.

So we have to go back on October 5 (or a few days later is ok they announced) to see if we’re approved for the 30 day extension from September 26. If not we would be immediately “overstaying” at 500 baht/day.

Thank you
C

Another writer, speaking about the same matter, said that they were still being charged the non-refundable 1900 baht fee for the 2 week extension….

“They still collected the non refundable 1900 baht fee.”

Yesterday a person, who had been living in Bangkok under the auspices of the visa amnesty on a lapsed Non Immigrant B (Business) visa, ended up visiting three different offices to get his paperwork sorted out. This is after first contacting immigration by phone to confirm the particular office to attend. He had a letter from the US Embassy explaining that he would be unable to return to the US at this stage due to lack of flights and the current Covid-19 situation in the US. He made an appointment online, as instructed, and it still didn’t go very smoothly.

The instructions he received….

If your Visa was cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, and you are currently under the amnesty grace period set to expire September 26, you will need to schedule an appointment online to queue in with the Immigration Division 1 at Muang Thong Thani (near Don Mueang Airport). You will need…
  • Online appointment with Immigration Division 1
  • Passport
  • TM 6 Departure Card
  • 1,900 Baht fee for short term extension
  • Letter from embassy specifically stating inability to leave Thailand due to lack of repatriation flights and or a high risk of contracting Covid-19 in one’s home nation.
  • US Embassy letter request can be made online here
  • Portrait photo to affix to short term extension application 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm in dimension

After going to Counter K and Counter J (2 separate buildings), he ended up being asked to go to the Chaeng Wattana office instead, and then was shuffled off to yet another office. Additional paperwork was also requested, beyond what had been asked for. After nearly a full day he ended up with a visa stamp for a 30 day extension in his visa.

He also noted that there is NO ATM around the Mueang Thong Thani immigration offices and our reader had to take a 60 baht motorcycle taxi ride to get cash.

Probably worse, he said that the Immigration officials (clearly overworked at this time), were “extremely rude” and that the facilities (apparently temporary) are “less-than-adequate”, especially the Counter K, which was basically a parking garage with seats… no fans.

Additionally, contrary to the clear advice on the Thai Immigration website, most people getting their extensions were from the date of their visit and NOT the end of the September 26 amnesty.

Phuket Immigration handing out 'conditional' 14 day visas, pending investigations | News by The Thaiger

The moral of this tiny microcosm of stories is that it’s probably the busiest week for Thai immigration in history. The officials will be stressed and stretched, there will be long queues and there will be confusion. We should also mention that we’ve had a few foreigners contact us saying that things went very smoothly for their extensions, so well done to all concerned in those examples!

Be prepared, take ALL your paperwork, expect to asked to produce more evidence, make sure you have all your photos and copies of your passport, TM 6 departure card, plus filled-in applications before you head to the Immigration offices.

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