Phuket Police brutality at heart of mega-blockade
PHUKET: Four police officers were removed from active duty last night to bring an eight-hour blockade of Phuket’s critical Thepkrasattri Road to an end at about 11:30pm.
The officers – Lt Akarapol Siwilai, Sub Lt Manus Faipetch, Sgt Maj Sansak Choti and Sgt Yongyuth Ritplud, all of the Tah Chat Chai Police Station – were transferred to Phuket Provincial Hall with immediate effect.
They will face an inquiry into allegations they struck three teenagers during questioning over the brutal rape of a 25-year-old pregnant woman on Sunday night. The three teenagers did not include the twin brothers who later confessed to the rape (story here).
Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut arrived at the blockade, just north of the turnoff to Phuket International Airport, at about 9:45pm – after hours of fruitless negotiations by the Phuket Police to bring the roadblock to an end.
By that time, thousands of motorists were stuck in Phuket’s biggest traffic jam on record, with hundreds of tourists delayed from reaching their departing flights.
Negotiations were held at the Baan Mak Prok Mosque, where Governor Maitri presented the mob leaders with the official transfer order for the four officers, signed by Phuket Provincial Deputy Commander Col Peerayut Karajedee.
“As per your second request, I will see if I can get the four officers to apologize, and to have civil defense volunteer bodyguards protect the three teenagers until they feel safe,” Governor Maitri said.
“I will also pass on your final request that the superintendent of Tah Chat Chai Police be transferred should this kind of situation happen again.”
Governor Maitri also extended his apologies over the incident directly to the parents of the three teenagers involved.
While negotiations were underway, scuffles broke out among the crowd. One incident flared up as a teenager took photos of those taking part in the blockade.
Airport chief plays down delayed takeoffs
Phuket Airport Director Pratuang Sornkham confirmed that 26 flights were delayed by the blockade, as travellers could not reach the airport in time for their scheduled flights.
“Flights were delayed by at least two hours as passengers could not make it to the airport in time,” he told the Phuket Gazette. “Most of the flights were international.”
To assist tourists caught in the monster tailback, shuttle vans were dispatched to bring them to the airport along an old secondary road and airport officers launched a phone campaign to inform as many travel companies as possible of the blockade.
“Even though a lot of flights were delayed, I have been informed that none of the passengers booked on those flights were left behind,” Mr Patuang said. “They were all able to board their planes.”
— Kritsada Mueanhawong
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