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Special Report: The gangs of Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The justice system’s soft handling of criminal youth is at the core of the island’s growing drug-powered gang violence, which led to a 15-year-old bystander being gunned down during the final hours of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, explained Phuket City Police Deputy Superintendent Khunnadet Nanongkhai.

Five suspects have already been charged for the murder of Thanakij Sawirum, 15, and the attempted murders of three 14-year-old bystanders, who were injured by stray bullets as members of rival gangs Wan Wai and Mac Tim Villa 3 exchanged gunfire.

“Shootings, thefts, drug dealing and violent crimes committed by youth associated with gangs on the island has been steadily on the rise,” said Col Khunnadet.

“Fundamentally, the issue is that the courts don’t deal out harsh enough punishments to minors, so these criminals get a slap on the wrist and are back out there causing problems. However, the recent increase is also due to social media. Gangs are able to quickly recruit members, set up drug deals, organize times to fight with other gangs and gain fame by boasting about it.”

Col Khunnadet explained that his station was making about two gang-related arrests per month. Prior to the widespread use of social media, his officers were rarely having to deal with gang activity at all.

“Now these teens are able to easily purchase homemade firearms online. When they are on drugs with a gun in their hand, they will do whatever they want – this is an incredible risk for society as a whole.”

GANG DEMOGRAPHICS

More than 30 gangs, with memberships ranging from 30 to 150 people, have sliced up the island into ‘home turfs’.

“There is a gang for nearly every village in Phuket. However, there are eight gangs that are known to be very criminally active,” Col Khunnadet said.

Gangs are usually identified by their Facebook group name or their home base location, Col Khunnadet explained.

The eight major gangs on the island are: Baan Don (Thalang); Wan Wai (Patong); Sab Soon Mafia Phuket (Wichit); Harm Chaow Lol Kheng (Koh Kaew); Adoi Soi King Kaew, also known as KingKaew (Rassada); Sai Lang Sapan Hin (Sapan Hin, Phuket Town); La Taem (Talad Yai, Phuket Town); and Soom Thai Look (Sapan Ruam, Phuket Town).

Though these eight gangs are best-known to police for their criminal activity, others – such as Mac Tim Villa 3, which was allegedly part of the Vegetarian Festival shooting – are also criminally active.

The gangs are mostly composed of 15 to 18 year olds, with about 40 per cent of them being female.

GANG ACTIVITY

Police records show that 80 to 90 per cent of the gangs operating on the island are involved with drugs on a daily basis.

Asking to be referred to only as ‘Mr Fresh’, a 27-year-old former leader of the KingKaew gang in Rassada – who has served nine months in prison for his involvement in a gun battle three years ago – confessed to the Phuket Gazette that he supported himself as a member of the gang through selling ya ice (crystal methamphetamine) and ya ba (methamphetamine) to younger members.

However, drug and gun dealing is not the primary source of income for most members, explained Col Khunnadet. The most popular way for the teens to get money is by asking their parents for it. Many also turn to theft or even pull guns on secondary students, demanding that they give them money.

“Most members of the groups are still students. They believe that we can take care of them. They feel safe with us,” explained Mr Fresh. “To get into the gang, the new members have to respect us. Sometimes they will pay for our food, as they believe that we will help them fight members of other gangs.”

Conflicts are usually about girls or being disrespectful, Mr Fresh explained.

“Some gangs are our enemies and some are our friends. As the leader of the gang, I had to sort out the problems created by our members,” Mr Fresh said. “If a younger member had a problem, I would talk to the leader of the other group first. If we couldn’t solve the problem, we would let them have a fist fight. However, if the problem was still not resolved, we would revert to swords and guns.”

Local gang leaders are revered for their bravery by fellow members. They develop strong reputations for their ability to fight, Mr Fresh explained.

Gang members usually spend their time hanging around their base – Saphan Hin is a very popular area for Phuket’s gangs – drinking and waiting for the opportunity to start a fight, Mr Fresh said. Some fights are prearranged on either LINE or Facebook.

“Under the influence of drugs, gang members will zip around the island in packs, usually stirring up trouble with other gangs,” Col Khunnadet said. “Drugs are the main reason they get together. Kratom is particularly popular because it’s cheap.”

No matter how a fight goes, each conflict between rival gangs feeds into a never-ending cycle of members seeking revenge, Col Khunnadet said.

“We were never afraid of the police because we believed we could always escape,” Mr Fresh said. However, like the five men arrested for the slaying of Mr Thanakij, the law eventually caught up with Mr Fresh.

“During my nine months in jail, not one member of the gang came to visit me,” he said. “After I was released, I quit the gang. I’m now trying to educate a new generation about staying away from drugs and weapons. I’m not saying they can’t still be part of a gang. But they must talk with reason first, and then, if that fails, they can fight it out like men – no guns, no swords.”

GANG FLOOD GATES OPEN

Police are struggling to rein in gang activity on the island, as they are usually limited to arresting the youths when they are caught in a criminal act.

“Because they are teenagers, it is very difficult for us to secure a search or arrest warrant, despite knowing that they have drugs or weapons in their home,” Col Khunnadet said.

“We know the gangs’ Facebook pages and other information about their members. They even post videos showing them threatening people with guns, but we cannot do anything until the court gives us permission.”

Even when the teens are arrested, the cases against them are sometimes dismissed or they are only given a small fine before being taken to the Juvenile Observation and Protection Center, where their parents can pick them up, Col Khunnadet said.

“The teenagers are never afraid of being arrested because they know the penalties won’t be severe. There are many cases where we have to deal with repeat offenders. They don’t realize that the law is designed to give them another chance to be good people.”

Deputy Phuket Court Chief Judge Boonjuan Panich confirmed to the Gazette that it was rare for a judge to sentence a teenager to serve prison time.

“Thai law is designed to protect youth. We believe that they are too young to fully realize the consequences of their actions. Yes, they did something wrong, but we want them to have a chance to change,” Judge Boonjuan said. “Police also have to be careful and ensure that they have enough evidence when they arrest the teens. They can’t use handcuffs on them and must inform the legal guardians.”

Judge Boonjuan noted that despite the good work being done by police, the real burden of responsibility falls on the shoulders of the parents and educational institutions.

CLAMPDOWN

The slaying of Mr Thanakij, who was not involved with any of the gangs on the island, set off alarm bells for officers.

A number of measures are being taken to clamp down on gang violence on the island, explained Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Peerayuth Karajedee.

“Starting next month, the Phuket City Municipality will close Leab Khlong Road at 10pm and Saphan Hin Circle from 12am to 5am to prevent teenagers from gathering at those locations,” said Col Peerayuth. “We will also continue setting up daily checkpoints to create a police presence at popular gang locations, as well as check motorbike plate numbers and to see if there are any arrest warrants out for the driver.”

Additionally, the Phuket Provincial Police have ordered all local police stations to launch investigations into gangs operating in their areas and to crosscheck their records with other local stations.

Phuket City Police, which has three of the eight most criminally active gangs in its jurisdiction, will begin calling in members of influential gangs, whether or not the youth have committed a crime, to establish a database, explained Col Peerayuth.

“By having their names and addresses, it will be much easier to track them down if they are wanted for criminal activity,” he said.

— Kongleaphy Keam

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Thailand News Today | Protesters face arrest | Phuket “in a coma”| September 22

The Thaiger

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Thailand News Today | Protesters face arrest | Phuket “in a coma”| September 22 | The Thaiger

Thailand News Today with Tim Newton. Daily news from around Thailand.

Struggling airlines to get reprieve through small loans, extension to fuel tax cut

Airlines in Thailand are being offered a financial lifeline, as the Government Savings Bank announces soft loans for carriers left struggling as a result of the current Covid-19 ‘disruption’.

The GSB is offering the loans over a 60 month period, with an annual interest rate of 2%. The bank’s chairman says the proposal will be put to Cabinet for approval.

Airlines have been left financially devastated by the fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with countries closing their borders, passenger numbers plummeting, and carriers forced to slash the number of flights on offer. The services available, including the food services, were also curtailed early on as a preventative measure but that restriction has since been lifted.

In a further effort to ease the financial crisis faced by Thai airlines, the Excise Department says it will extend the fuel tax cut for low-cost carriers by another 6 months from the end of this month.

Protest leaders face charges for violating Thailand’s lèse majesté law and for installing the plaque

Leaders of the weekend’s pro-democracy protest in Bangkok are facing charges for violating Thailand’s lèse majesté laws and for installing a symbolic plaque at a “registered historical site”. Police filed complaints to between 10 to 16 protesters.

It’s unclear how many protesters will be charged, but a Royal Thai Police spokesperson says charges will be pressed against those who “pulled the strings.” Under Thailand’s lèse majesté law, it is illegal to insult or defame the Thai Monarch or royal family. Police say they will take the strongest legal actions possible against those who undermined the Monarchy, although earlier this year the Thai PM said that His Majesty had requested that such charges not be brought against Thai citizens.

Charges are also being brought against the protesters who installed a commemorative plaque in the forecourt of Sanam Luang, next to the Grand Palace. The Fine Arts Department and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration have filed complaints with police over the installation of the plaque, saying the protesters broke the law by causing damage to an archaeological site.

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. The governor highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, cutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money coming into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that could attract more visitors to the province.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader

Meanwhile, the owner of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort is facing a social media storm after condemning the current pro-democracy movement and one of its main organisers. Taking to Instagram, Vorasit Issara, owner of the five-star Sri Panwa Phuket Resort, singles out the female protest leader saying “she should be in prison”.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for?

Sharing a photo of Panusaya, he adds, “arrest this child.” Vorasit incorrectly asserted that Panusaya wasn’t Thai. In fact she was born in 1998 in Nonthaburi and IS a Thai citizen.

His post has since gone viral, prompting outrage from those who support the anti-government movement. A hashtag calling for a boycott of his Sri Panwa Phuket resort has taken off on Twitter, at a time when almost all hotels are battling for survival, especially on Phuket.

Myanmar’s Covid-19 spike causes mass lockdowns as Thai authorities scramble to seal the border

Myanmar is currently suffering a wave of Covid-19, causing concern in Thailand as its western border authorities bump up security measures and patrols.

Burmese authorities have been introducing increasingly draconian restrictions to control the sudden spread of the virus over the past 4 weeks. Whilst the case load is still relatively small, the concerns are focussing on the porous western borders of Myanmar onto adjacent Bangladesh and India, as well as the spike in cases in the largest city Yangon.

Yangon is now under a very tight lockdown as the city is quickly turning into the country’s hotspot of Covid-19.

There were 610 and 6 new deaths in the past 24 hours. Yesterday 671 new cases of Covid-10 were reported

Indonesia’s economy shrinks for the first time in 22 years

Indonesia’s economy will contract for the first time since the Asian financial crisis in 1997/1998.

Gross domestic product is forecast to decline over 1% this year according to the country’s Finance Minister. He said…

Southeast Asia’s largest economy is struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic as the number of new cases each day continues to set records. The worsening outbreak prompted the renewal of social-distancing curbs in Jakarta, measures that had battered growth in the second quarter this year.

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Tourism

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

Maya Taylor

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Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy | The Thaiger
Shuttered businesses along Bangla Road in Patong yesterday

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew was addressing a Public Health Association forum, where he highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, shutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money flowing into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years, including accommodation, tours, tour boats, tours buses and passenger vans, international shows, new roads, restaurants and rentals – all aimed at the many levels of traveller budgets.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that will attract more visitors to the province.

“So far, the province has invited 15,000 village health volunteers in the south to travel and spend time in the province while today’s seminar is bringing in 10,000 attendees and followers and will relieve some of the hardship.”

Meanwhile, PHA president Prapat Thamwongsa, says the forum gives those attending the opportunity to share knowledge and advice on tackling the spread of disease, with presentations and competitions addressing all public health activities.

Phuket usually receives around 14 million visitors every year, with around 10-11 million arriving from outside Thailand. The airport usually welcomes up to 300 international flights a day but is now only receiving around 80 flights a day, since the ban on foreign flights started in April. Narong says an estimated 40,000 of the island’s workers are now unemployed, while those still employed have taken hefty pay cuts of anything from 20% to a hefty 90%. Less than 30% of the province’s hotels are currently open.

“Phuket is like a patient in a coma in ICU. So, it is necessary for all stakeholders to help restore Phuket as quickly as possible.”

The Cabinet recently approved a long-stay visa (the Special Tourist Visa) for tourists who wish to visit the Kingdom, although critics say the strict requirements, coupled with the extortionate cost of the mandatory 14 day quarantine, make it unworkable. The new visa is also insisting that travellers will have to arrive on restricted charter or private jet flights, adding further cost and restrictions.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader

Maya Taylor

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Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sri Panwa Phuket Resort - Sri Panwa Phuket

The owner of a luxury resort on the Thai island of Phuket is facing a social media storm after condemning the current pro-democracy movement and one of its main organisers. Taking to Instagram, Vorasit Issara, owner of the five-star Sri Panwa Phuket Resort, singles out protest leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul for his disapproval, saying “she should be in prison”.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for? This one needs to be in prison”.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Sharing a photo of Panusaya, he adds, “arrest this child.” Vorasit incorrectly asserted that Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul isn’t Thai. In fact she was born in 1998 in Nonthaburi and IS a Thai citizen.

His post has since gone viral, prompting outrage from those who support the anti-government movement. A hashtag calling for a boycott of his Sri Panwa Phuket resort has taken off on Twitter, at a time when almost all hotels are battling for survival, especially on Phuket. The hashtag #แบนศรีพันวา (Ban Sri Panwa) is trending on top on Twitter.

Digging up the 38 year old’s past indicates hissupport of Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the coup that brought him to power in 2014. Speaking to Coconuts Bangkok, Vorasit denied being “out-of-touch” and “elite” and said he’s unconcerned about the boycott call.

“If you don’t love (the political) establishment, you better not come to my resort. Don’t be my guest,” he said in the Coconuts story.

Others are now using Google reviews to attack the property, accusing Vorasit of supporting a dictatorship.

The anti-government rally held in Bangkok, at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus and the Sanam Luang royal parade grounds over the weekend, drew up to 30,000 people in Bangkok’s drizzly wet-season weather. Panusaya was one of the protesters who organised the event and was the first, in July, to read out a 10 point manifesto that, for the first time, openly mentioned the reform of the Thai monarchy.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader | News by The Thaiger

Vorasit’s comments come as the newly-crowned Miss Grand Thailand also faces a backlash, after speaking up in support of anti-government protesters. Pacharaporn Chantarapadit has been hit with racist insults on social media after condemning the current administration and saying she stands with the protesters.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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