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Many more tourist destinations are coming under scrutiny after the dawn raids in Koh Samui last week. So encouraged by the success of the raids to break up criminal gangs police are now looking to widen their net and expand their list of targets to other tourist areas.
Last Friday Pol Mag Gen Thitirat led 300 police to join with the military and at the sun rose across Koh Samui 756 security officers including commando police and soldiers raided 26 spots believed to be the hideouts of local people of influence and criminals.
During the raid five suspects were arrested, 20 guns and 835 rounds of ammunition were confiscated as well as three kilograms of the narcotic kratom plant.
The move came after local businessman Panas Kao-uthai, 49, was shot dead in a restaurant in the popular Fisherman’s village during the weekly walking street market. It is believed that business conflicts between influential figures on the island was the motive behind the crime. The man’s death frightened villagers and raised grave concerns with the police who believe that the high level of crime in Koh Samui was tarnishing its reputation as a top tourist destination.
During the time of the raids the gunman involved in the shooting was still at large, however the main suspect turned himself into the police on the evening of the raids, fearful that he would be killed during the operation. The day before the raids four other suspects in the Panas killing were arrested.
Police said that apprehending the gunmen was a simple operation as the incident was caught clearly on CCTV in the village. It is believed those involved in the plot to kill Panas were having a dispute with him over a real estate project and the revenue from the walking street market held each Friday.
According to a report in the Bangkok post, the investigators into the murder believe that three suspects hired gunmen to kill Mr. Panas because they were worried many local businesses would end up in his hands, as he had good connections with investors outside the island. The deadly conflict alerted Pol j Gen Thitirat to other problems with mafia in Samui, so the crackdown was ordered. The move also came after concerns were raised about rising crime by tourists visiting the area.
Pol Maj Gen Thitirat has vowed to “cut the mafia’s cycle” everywhere, especially in tourist destinations. This will not only involve raids on targeted areas but blocking financial transactions of those suspected to me mafia.
During the Samui operation police from the Economic Crime Suppression Division and Technology Crime Suppression Division were ordered to inspect the suspects computers, mobile phones and business tax information.