BANGKOK — Bangkok police commander said it was too early to say whether the gambling den where four people, including a policeman, was killed in a shootout can be classified as one – to the widespread mockery of netizens Wednesday.
Metro police chief Lt. Gen. Pakkapong Pongpetra said the venue, located at a shophouse in Soi Rama III 66, isn’t technically a casino because only one gambling table was found at the scene. Police also insisted the fatal shooting was driven by “personal issues.”
“I’ve ordered the Metropolitan Police Division 5 to quickly investigate whether the gambling den is a gambling den or not, and whether police gain benefits from it, or if they were negligent in their duties,” Pakkapong said. “Straightforwardly, gambling dens are illegal.”
The police general added, “During our investigation we found one gambling table, four dead, and did not find security cameras.”
His assertion was met with widespread ridicule online. A Facebook page posted photos of multiple security cameras at the gambling den – where men were seen climbing up ladders over dead bodies.
“It’s not a gambling den, it’s a co-working space in the Rama III area,” user @Permsiro tweeted.
Gen. Pakkapong said the deceased policeman, Wathaseth Sumniangprasert, was not on duty when the shootout occurred.
Gambling is illegal in Thailand, but small casinos with card games and gambling activities are fairly common in Bangkok, where their existence is generally an open secret.
Police have often busted illegal gambling operations but largely steered clear of the ones owned by local influential figures.
Chuvit Kamolvisit, who was one of such influential figures before entering politics, said that a man known as “Hia Tee” is the owner of the casino where Wathaseth was shot dead along with three others.
He also showed the press photos of the casino before the shootout – full of several gambling tables.
Initial investigation found that the other dead man pulled out a gun after he thought he had been cheated, media reports say. Watthaseth is said to have intervened and was shot dead.
The man then reportedly turned and fired at the crowd, killing two women. An unknown individual soon shot and killed the first gunman and fled the scene before police could arrive, Pakapong said. Police have since asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for the suspect.
Pakapong said it seemed the first gunman bore some grudge against the policeman.
One of the women killed was Mao Salaepao, a 29-year-old Cambodian. Her husband has contacted the Cambodian Embassy to arrange for her body to be sent back home.
Additional reporting: Associated Press