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Phuket turf war: Diary of slain tuk-tuk boss lifts veil on Patong’s transport mafia

Police have presented the personal diary of Sakol Sompotch, the 58-year-old President of the Patong Tuk-Tuk Club who was murdered last week, as a vital piece of evidence in their bringing his alleged killers to justice.

phuket-mafiaThe diary details the ongoing conflict Mr Sakol had with Wattana “Dam” Nawakeaw, 38, who heads the “KT Tuk Tuk – Taxi Service” group. Wattana now faces charges of conspiracy to murder Mr Sakol.

The KT group is legally allocated by the government to operate in Kata and Karon. They may take passengers elsewhere on the island, but may not pick up passengers outside of their legal “patch”.

However, Mr Wattana and his cadre of tuk-tuk drivers had carved out territory of their own in the heart of Patong. They had done so illegally, and for more than two years after the military led a police crackdown on Phuket’s powerful transport mafia.

Mr Sakol was slain in the early hours of Tuesday last week (Oct 25), when he was shot four times as his attackers opened fire at the cab of his tuk-tuk at close range. The assassination took place in front of the Phuket Villa housing complex on Phra Phuket Kaew Rd in Kathu just before 3am. (See story here.)

Police moved quickly in making two arrests. Wattana “Dam” Nawakeaw, 38, and a 17-year-old male who police named only as “Thong” were taken into custody last Friday (Oct 28) after warrants for their arrest were issued earlier that day. (See story here.)

Both have been charged with conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to illegally obtain a firearm, and conspiracy to bring a firearm into a public area without permission.

Wattana denied the charges, but Thong confessed to his role in the slaying, Kathu Police Deputy Chief Investigator Lt Col Amponwat Seangreung told The Phuket News.

By Tuesday this week (Nov 1), police had another suspect in custody, but another four suspects remain at large, including the gunman and getaway driver, Col Amponwat explained. (See story here.)

All four are no longer in Phuket, he added.

“We have located two more suspects. They have been arrested and will be sent back to face charges here, and we are still tracking down the other two,” Col Amponwat said.

THE HIT

The “hit” was contracted out to one group, of which three of the seven suspects are teenagers, Col Amponwat noted. “Actually, they are all from the same extended family,” he explained.

While the diary, and accompanying voice and video clips, comprise a key piece of evidence, the arrests and hunt for the remaining suspects follows corroboration provided by private and public authority CCTV and witness statements, and tracking them down through social media, Col Amponwat noted.

“Our investigation shows that this was a planned execution,” he said.

The Phuket News was permitted to see – and make a transcript of – the entries Mr Sakol made in his diary on one day only – the last day of his life, Oct 25.

However, Col Amponwat said The Phuket News was not permitted to publish the exact words written by Mr Sakol on that day. He also did not allow The Phuket News to view any other pages of the diary.

Col Amponwat also declined to provide any images from the CCTV footage. “That will be presented in court as evidence,” he said.

‘A LOT OF MONEY’

Col Amponwat said he had yet to determine how much the alleged killers were hired for. “But the dispute was over a lot of money – a lot of money,” he said.

By example, Col Amponwat explained that the illegal tuk-tuks cost about B150,000 each. “But operating a fully legal tuk-tuk costs B700,000 to B800,000 each,” he said.

Phuket News

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