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Phuket 2012: Crimes take center stage

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Phuket 2012: Crimes take center stage | The Thaiger

SPECIAL REPORT

PHUKET: There were many high-profile crimes on Phuket in 2012. Perhaps none horrified the audience of the world as much as killing of Australian tourist Michelle Smith, 60. Mrs Smith, a travel agent, died from stab wounds after two men tried to steal her handbag and she fought back.

Her assailants, Surasak Suwannachote and Surin Tadthong, were apprehended, tried and sentenced to life in prison less than a month after the killing, which was caught on CCTV.

Ten days earlier Australian national Stevie Bamford reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted by tuk-tuk drivers in Patong, but subsequent review of CCTV images by police revealed holes in her story.

She later signed a confession saying she had made up the story after a fight with her boyfriend, served a 15-day sentence in Phuket’s minimum security prison and was then deported.

However, she enraged Australian diplomatic officials later in the year when she appeared on the Australian show Today Tonight claiming that an attack did occur and that she was advised by Aussie diplomats to lie about what really happened. She did admit that she was drunk at the time and that the night’s events had been “a bit of a blur”.

However, the year of high-profile crime started just weeks into 2012, when on January 12 the well-known investigative reporter Wisut “Ae Inside” Tangwitthayaporn was assassinated by two men on a motorbike in a shooting ambush in broad daylight on Thepkrasattri Road in Rassada.

Police soon issued four warrants in the case and made two arrests. The first was of alleged driver Noppadol Praisri on January 14. Then, in mid-February, alleged mastermind Atsadakorn “Pod” Seedokbuab, owner of KPP Cable TV, turned himself in after negotiations with police. He claimed innocence, saying he was unaware of the charges against him because he was away in Burma on business.

Two other suspects, including the shooter, remain at large.

On the last day of February, Norweigian expat Stein Havard Dokset was arrested in his villa in Kata and charged with the murder of his late girlfriend Rungnapa Suktong, whose remains were found dissolving in an acid bath inside the home.

Mr Dokset later admitted to accidentally killing Ms Rungnapa in a fit of jealous rage after she left him for a Patong policeman.

In early July, 17-year-old Sunisa “Nong Som” Saiyoy was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home in a quiet suburb in Wichit. Some fine detective work led to the quick arrest and confession of Kittikhun Wonghajak, a serial thief who was high on methamphetamine when he entered the home with intent to commit robbery.

Ms Sunisa, who had an acute fear of strangers, was suffering from depression and happened to be home alone that day. Kittikhun told police that when he saw Nong Som alone, he “decided” to sexually assault her and accidentally suffocated her with a pillow.

It took scores of security personnel to keep a large crowd from lynching the suspect during a re-enactment of the crime carried out in front of the victim’s home.

Mr Kittikhun is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

In late July, Chalong Police arrested Belgian Marc de Schutter, described as one of the most wanted European criminals. Mr de Schutter was wanted for murder, money laundering and economic crimes in his native Belgium. He was quickly deported to face charges there.

On December 1, murder suspect Lee “The Pitbull” Aldhouse arrived at Phuket International Airport after extradition from his native Britain to face charges for the August 2010 stabbing murder of Dashawn Longfellow, a former US Marine.

Aldhouse, a muay Thai fighter, successfully fled Thailand after the murder, but was later arrested at Heathrow Airport on an unrelated charge. His extradition was reportedly the first of a UK national to Thailand since a treaty was signed 101 years ago.

— Stephen Fein

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Tourism

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

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Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO | The Thaiger

There was the original Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns back in April and May in 2020, then again just before Christmas and New Year when the new clusters emerged in Samut Sakhon and the eastern coastal provinces, Patong’s nightlife was quiet enough, almost non-existent.

Now when the restrictions are lifted, Nimz will take you through Phuket’s famous nightlife spot Bangla Road, Patong Beach and Phuket Town. It’s quiet, but there are still clubs open and operating and ready to welcome you.

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Expats

Deceased Phuket expat’s body stuck in hospital due to passport mix-up

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Deceased Phuket expat’s body stuck in hospital due to passport mix-up | The Thaiger

In a nightmarish scenario, a deceased Phuket expat’s body is stuck in a Thai hospital as his step‐daughter claims hospital administrators won’t release the body due to a passport mix‐up.

Gemma Swift, the step‐daughter of 75 year old David Donoghue, who died 2 weeks ago, says she is pleading with embassy staff in Thailand to resolve, what she says, is purely an administrative issue after Donoghue’s passport number at the hospital was from that of an expired one.

Donoghue’s current passport was on file with the British Embassy, but because it did not match what the hospital had, his body has remained at the hospital. Swift says it was something that could easily be corrected and the situation was “horrendous” for the family.

“The British Embassy over in Bangkok, they said that because [the number] was from his current passport, they were unable to change the letter. They have said that they won’t reissue a letter with the passport number that he’s got in the hospital with him.”

She said her family planned to arrange a funeral for him in Thailand, then bring his ashes back to the UK. As he retired to Phuket 15 years ago, her family would then take his ashes back to Thailand, as per his wishes, to scatter them.

However, none of his family members were able to travel to Thailand to be with Donoghue in his final days, as the mandatory 14 day quarantine period upon entering Thailand, would not have allowed them to see him.

“I thought this was a basic human right to be able to give somebody a funeral and I accept that there is always going to be red tape…but please just issue a letter and let us bring him home.”

She said before Covid-19, family members travelled often to Phuket to visit Donoghue, who once worked for the Thai tourist police. She says the entire ordeal has been heartbreaking as her family was unable to say goodbye.

“That on its own was heart breaking, and now to get this two weeks later, to find out we can’t give him a funeral, or get his ashes back, it’s just horrendous.”

“It’s like being on autopilot… once we know we have done everything we can, we can start the grieving process, but at the minute we can’t.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said they are assisting Donoghue’s family during the difficult time.

“Our staff are in contact with the local hospital and funeral director to help his family obtain the necessary paperwork to ensure his body is treated in line with their wishes.”

If the situation isn’t fixed, Donoghue’s body will join a mass cremation at the hospital.

SOURCE: BBC News

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Phuket

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

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Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2 | The Thaiger

In today’s Thailand News Today…. The island of Phuket has a firm plan to get its residents vaccinated leading up to an October opening for tourists, the Thai PM backs up his police over last Sunday’s protest violence and Thai Airway’s employee union criticises the changes to employee contracts.

But the plan must be approved by the national government by April, if the province wants to open tourism by October 1. Phuket has a resident population of around 300- 400,000 people.

Before you go rushing off to book your plane tickets we’d stress that this is another in a long list of proposals that have not come to fruition and we’d urge patience until the Government approves the plans.

Meanwhile the island has taken delivery of 4,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccinations started yesterday, with priority given to 1,500 healthcare workers and 500 “at-risk” officials exposed to Covid-19 patients.

On a broader note… Thailand’s Tourism Minister says he has asked the Public Health Ministry to approve a vaccine passport scheme aimed at reviving Thailand’s devastated tourism sector. According to the Minister, the government is looking to the World Health Organisation to issue a statement on vaccine passports before it makes a final decision on the matter.

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended police action against protesters taking part in Sunday’s anti-government rally in Bangkok. Officers from the Metropolitan Police Bureau used tear gas, a water cannon and rubber bullets in an effort to drive protesters back from the PM’s residence. The PM insists the actions were in line with international standards. He says that police did not violate the protesters’ rights.

Thai researchers are claiming that horseshoe bats are not responsible for transmitting the Covid virus to humans. A researcher with the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases-Health Science Centre, says that even though the bats have tested positive for a coronavirus, it is not the strain that is transmissible to humans, and it’s certainly not the virus that causes Covid-19.

As Thai Airways tries to sell new contracts and conditions to its remaining workforce, the labour union of the national carrier is challenging changes to the employment contracts, where Thai Airways employees are being asked to agree to changes as part of the bigger financial rehabilitation program.

But a union representative says the new contracts are unfair because it includes fewer leave days and shorter holidays. The union has filed a complaint with the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.

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