Phangan Shooting Prompts Crackdown on ‘Foreign Mafia’

Suspected gunman Sihanath Chaipinit participates in a police 're-enactment' Saturday in front of the Palita Lodge on Koh Phangan.

SURAT THANI — Police have been ordered from the highest level to crack down on foreign mafia operating on Koh Phangan after a local official and Russian bar owner were arrested in connection with intimidation backed by gunfire on the island famous for its full moon parties.

Following arrests of two suspects in the shooting, Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan announced Sunday measures would be taken against foreigners business operators behaving like mafia on the famous resort islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

“Gen. Prawit is extremely concerned about the influence of foreigners,” said Maj. Gen. Apichart Boonsriroj of the Surat Thani police station. “He stressed officials must not be involved or giving any support to their illegal actions.”

Five gunshots were fired in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday into rooms occupied by tourists at Haad Rin Nok, the site of the monthly full moon bacchanals. No one was injured. The gunshots were believed meant to intimidate the bungalow’s owner after he filed a complaint with police about noisy overnight parties at a nearby bar owned by the Russian.

Over the weekend, police arrested 31-year-old Russian national Sergei Milentie, who operated the Similan bar where the parties were held, and Chanin Phetsri, the 54-year-old mayor of a community on the mainland. Chanin was said to have rented the bar to Milentie.

Police said their arrests came from information provided by the alleged gunman, 62-year-old Sihanath Chaipinit, and bar manager Jaturong Hongthong, 36. Both men were arrested Friday.

Mayor Chanin has denied being involved. A fifth suspect, 38-year-old Jirat Kuadkaew, fled.

Milentie denied renting the bar from the mayor. He has been charged with working illegally in the kingdom, as well as operating a bar and selling alcohol without permits. He was scheduled to appear Monday in court on Koh Samui.

The owner of the bungalows who made the original complaint, Pairot Charoenwan, said the trouble stemmed from a Jan. 10 meeting of the local business association held at his Palita Lodge. Local business owners agreed no parties would be allowed in the beach community except for the monthly Full Moon Party.

“Police then called the foreign bar owner to inform him of the agreement,” he said. “He was displeased.”

Surat Thani Gov. Wongsiri Phromchana said he expects more foreign mafia will be taken into custody, saying there are a number of expats operating businesses which serve tourists from their countries. He said many of them were involved in organized crime.

As part of the crackdown, police will review the investors and registration of businesses belonging to foreigners.


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