Photo: Thailand Police Story

PATTAYA — A Pattaya cop almost took one to the hip during a restaurant shootout with a big-time gangster – if not for his smartphone.

Sgt. Maj. Powaret Banjong said Tuesday he was recovering from the hard-boiled encounter in which his iPhone protected him from a bullet fired by a rampaging gunman.

“I have to monitor my condition,” Powaret said from his hospital bed Tuesday.

Somchai “Hia Chai” Sae-chua, 49, who police say is a known criminal element in the city’s Na Kluea subdistrict, was celebrating his birthday late Saturday night at the All New Mouthburi restaurant.

Toward midnight, Somchai got into an altercation with a woman at his table. Powaret, 31, who happened to be there having dinner with a fellow cop from out of town, intervened.

In anger, Somchai pulled out a pistol and fired several times at Powaret, who leapt up on the table and drew his gun as well. One of Somchai’s bullets hit Powaret’s arm and another his upper thigh.

The round struck the iPhone in his pants pocket, according to Thailand Police Story, which first spread the tale Monday night.

Powaret fell. His cop buddy from Prachinburi, Lance Cpl. Naretrak Krueawara, 30, picked up Powaret’s pistol and fired three times at Somchai, wounding him. When the bulletstorm ended, Somchai had been hit in the right temple, arm, stomach and leg. Rescue personnel arrived and were able to save him.

After both cop and perp were rushed to the hospital, police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said that Naretrak went to the Pattaya Police Station and filed a report.

Neither policemen will be charged for their involvement since it was ruled an act of self-defense while attempting to defuse a hostile situation. Somchai has been charged with attempted murder.

Somchai “Hia Chai” Sae-chua, injured on early Sunday morning.