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Phuket gunfight survivors yet to deliver police statements

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket gunfight survivors yet to deliver police statements | The Thaiger

PHUKET: One of the two survivors of the gunfight on March 20, which left two dead and a Tourist Police officer charged with murder, has given police his version of the shooting but has not identified the shooter.

Natthapong Kaewkuanchum, 25, was shot three times in the chest in the early morning of March 20, and is in the surgical ward at Vachira Phuket Hospital.

Phuket City Police investigators questioned him about what transpired in the room at the Phuket Garden Ville housing estate early on the morning of March 20 (story here).

“He told us that on that night he was sleeping in the room when a loud bang woke him up. As he was getting up, he was shot,” Phuket City Police chief Col Sermphan Sirikong told the Phuket Gazette.

“We asked who shot him. He did not answer. We showed him a picture of Sen Sgt Maj Pinchai and asked whether he was the shooter.”

“Mr Natthapong thought for a while and then closed his eyes. He did not answer our question,” Col Sermphan said.

“We did not ask him any more questions about the incident, such as why he was in the room or what his friends were doing before they were shot.

“We did not ask because we noticed he was not ready. He looked very tired and was still in bad condition,” he explained.

“We have to come back to question him later when he has recovered more,” he stated.

The other survivor, Sen Sgt Maj Pinchai Piyadilok of the Tourist Police, was shot in the stomach and leg during the gunfight and transferred to Prince of Songkla University Hospital in Haad Yai, where his wounded leg was amputated (story here).

“Our officers will question him soon,” Col Sermphan said.

On March 21, the day after the shootings, Sgt Pinchai was charged with murder “as a precaution”, Col Sermphan told the Gazette, adding, “He has been charged because we believe that he was somehow involved in the incident, but at this stage we just don’t know how.”

Nearly a week later, the police are still unsure what transpired when Sgt Pinchai entered his neighbor’s room.

“Right now we still cannot say whether Sgt Pinchai overreacted, because Mr Natthapong is our only witness,” Tourist Police Division 5 Superintendent Yotsavee Pornperaparn told the Gazette.

“We need to investigate further before determining who is right and who is wrong… For example, maybe Sen Sgt Maj Pinchai entered the room and saw those people using drugs. If he ordered them to stop and they stopped but he still shot them, then he was certainly wrong.

“However, if he ordered them to stop but they did not and tried fighting back, then he might have been trying to protect himself. If this was the case, he might not be in the wrong,” Col Yotsavee explained.

When contacted by the Gazette, Phuket’s top-ranking police officer, Provincial Commander Choti Chavalviwat, acknowledged that Sgt Pinchai had been charged with murder and attempted murder, but said the survivors could not currently be questioned.

“Sgt Pinchai and Mr Natthapong are not in good enough condition to give us their statements now. We have to question them again later,” Maj Gen Choti said.

“If Mr Natthapong was not trying to resist but Sgt Pinchai shot him anyway, then Sgt Pinchai will be prosecuted. If Mr Natthapong resisted Sgt Pinchai as he (Pinchai) tried to do his job, we will press charges against Mr Natthapong,” he added.

“We will be fair to each side,” he stated.

“Every policeman is expected to be able to control his temper in terms of gun use. He must realize that he is a law protector, not a law breaker. The most important duty of a policeman is to obey the law,” he said.

— Orawin Narabal

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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