KOH PHANGAN – January 1, 2013 [PDN]; a report of a British tourist being accidentally shot and killed during gunfire between rival local gangs was received by police from the Phangan police station.
The shooting occurred at the Zoom bar on Haad Rin beach. About 300 tourists had been partying and dancing for the New Year’s countdown. However, at about 4 a.m., two Thai gangs got into a confrontation and started fighting and shooting at each other.
A 23-year-old British tourist was shot in the torso and fatally wounded. He was identified as Mr. Steven David Ashton. He had come to Thailand with four friends when he was killed.
After being notified, police immediately began tracking down the suspect. By late morning, police arrested a suspect, identified as Mr.Ekapan Klawkla, 26 years old. Police also seized a home-made gun.
During their investigation, police discovered that two gangs of young men from separate villages in the area had attended the New Year’s Countdown at the Zoom bar. However, the gangs had been having an ongoing feud.
So they got into a fight and then shot at each other. The tourists and Thais scattered in panic, but the young British tourist got hit by a bullet and died.
Pol. Maj. Col. Kiattipong Khaosamang, the commander of Surartthanee provincial police, said that it was open-and-shut case, since the killer had been arrested and confessed. He will be charged with murder.
But the police were worried about the image of Thailand, and how the news in the British media would adversely affect Thailand’s tourism. Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon parties. However, a travel advisory from Britain’s Foreign Office warns travelers to beware of past incidents of violence on Koh Phangan, and mentions roving Thai gangs.
The police informed the British embassy to Thailand of Mr. Steven’s death. The news was doubly tragic for the victim’s family, because Mr. Steven’s father had died only a year ago from a brain tumor.
Mr. Steven had taken off from work to care for his ailing father until he died. Now only Mr. Steven’s mother and sister are left to cope with their latest family tragedy.