PHUKET TOWN: Panwong Hirunchai, the Day Trip Operation Manager for Sea Canoe Thailand’s Phang Nga-based operations, was reported in stable condition at Bangkok Phuket Hospital this morning, one day after being shot outside the expedition company’s office. Sea Canoe Director and General Manager Noah Shepherd, who visited Khun Panwong earlier today at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, told the Gazette the 39-year-old shooting victim was stable and that none of the three bullets had lodged in his body. A hospital spokesman said the victim underwent five hours of surgery yesterday. Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Somjai Sirikul told the Gazette that the suspected gunman and getaway motorbike driver, both described by an eyewitness as Thai males, remain at large. A team of investigators has been assigned to the case, he said, adding that Phang Nga, Krabi and Region 8 Provincial Police have been provided with a description of the suspects. Khun Panwong had not been interviewed by investigators as of this morning. The deputy commander said police believe the shooting stemmed from a business-related conflict. A press release issued by Sea Canoe yesterday afternoon stated that the shooting came on the heels of a dispute between kayaking operators who lead expeditions to island caves and lagoons in Phang Nga Bay Marine National Park and PP Cabana Co Ltd. PPCCL holds the bird’s nest concession for the area. In its statement, the company accused PP Cabana of attempting to extort money from kayaking firms. A deal between the concessionaire and the eleven members of the recently-formed Canoeing Club For The Protection Of The Environment called for the organization to collect money from its members and forward the funds to PP Cabana. Sea Canoe stated that it had refused to sign the agreement.
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