To Maj Gen Chayodom Jintawairoth, Commander of the General Staff Sub-Division at Region 8 Police, the current policy is safe enough.
Citing the Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks, and the Equivalent of Firearms Act, which dates back to 1947, Maj Gen Chayodom said, “By law, only officers on duty may carry weapons in public, which is a suitable policy. Officers on duty need weapons for protection and to stop crime when needed. There is no need to change this policy.”
After explaining at length that police officers of the rank of captain or above must also carry police identification with them while carrying a firearm in public while on duty, Gen Chayodom admitted that the Royal Thai Police “does not have a policy for off-duty police officers to carry weapons into public places”.
“If off duty officers are involved in a firearm incident and found guilty, they will be punished with both criminal and disciplinary proceedings, accordingly,” he said in an official statement* issued to The Phuket News.
“If after investigation an officer is found guilty of ‘such an accusation’ (sic) then the punishment would be either to ask the officer to leave the police force voluntary or he or she will be fired from the current position, this depends on the severity of the offence,” he said.
That is if the officer is charged, and even then that is if the police investigation is concluded, or even launched.
Gen Chayodom did not respond to questions about the current status of investigations or criminal proceedings against any Region 8 police officers involved in specific cases identified by The Phuket News where citizens – mostly innocents – were killed by guns carried by Royal Thai Police officers into a public venue while off duty.
Region 8 Police jurisdiction includes Samui, where two people were shot dead and five others wounded in a violent pub brawl involving several policemen in the early hours of Sept 23.
Lt Corp Jaerasak Sroisangvarn and Kraisorn Mingsakul, a guard at the Camp Beer pub in Bo Phut, died in the shoot-out.
The five with bullet wounds were identified as Lt Corp Sitthisak Ngamkhom, Lt Corp Kritsana Boonyin, pub guard Voravit Yimyong, pub manager Thepthinnakorn Thongphet and pub waiter Veerapong Jarusenee.
Initial reports indicated that the gunfight began after Lt Corp Narongsak Khamjai of Bo Phut Police Station fired shots from his 9mm pistol into the crowd gathering in front of the pub after a fight broke out between the police “enjoying a night out” and a group of young men at the pub.
Narongsak was later arrested, sacked from the police force and now faces murder and attempted murder charges.
Closer to home, however, police have yet to provide any explanation to the public about two Phuket City Police officers killing each other in a gunfight outside a restaurant in Phuket Town.
The shooting started after Sgt Maj Nattachai Phonoy of the Phuket Immigration Police refused Lt Corp Wongsathon Theparan of the Kathu Police (Thung Thong) and his friends entry to the Haophan restaurant and pub near the Seahorse Circle. Sgt Maj Nattachai was moonlighting at the live music venue as security.
Lt Corp Wongsathon responded by fetching his gun from his pickup truck parked nearby. He then returned to the pub and pistol-whipped Sgt Maj Nattachai for the insult, then fired a shot in the air.
Lt Thamarong Suwanchatree of the Phuket City Police, who was eating in another restaurant nearby came to investigate, and ended up plugging three rounds into the chest of Lt Corp Wongsathon, who returned fire, fatally wounding Lt Thamarong in the process.
With both officers dead, the Phuket City Police have yet to reveal any action in the case.
The Royal Thai Police silencing any investigation in that incident, however, pales in comparison to lack of explanation to a waitress being shot in the head outside the Saraphan Pleng bar near Chalong Circle by a policeman’s gun just before 4am – hours after the pub was supposed to have closed by law.
Karaoke hostess Nootsika Glaseuk, 36, from Ranong, had just walked out of the pub, which is literally around the corner from Chalong Police Station, when she was hit in the head by a bullet fired from a passing pickup truck.
Provincial anti-narcotics officer Sen Sgt Maj Sompong Santathiwong turned himself in the next day. He affirmed the gun that fired the deadly shot was his, but denied that he murdered Ms Nootsika.
Police in Phuket “accidentally” shooting innocents is not new. In 2013, Sgt Phongsagorn Treeyut of the Kathu Police (now called the Patong Police) said he was playing with his gun when it went off, shooting dead 27-year-old waitress Sawitree Kaewnin while sitting at a table outside the Fong Beer pub on Pang Muang Sai Kor Road in Patong.
Police confirmed that Sgt Phongsagorn was “investigated”, but any conclusion failed to reach the public.
That case followed another policeman a year earlier shooting dead a man in the middle of the street, in Phun Phol Soi 11, in what was claimed to be self-defence. Again, news of any legal action in that case failed to reach public ears.
Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Teerapol Thipjaroen branded questions about these cases as “nonsense”.
“If you want a reason, you have to ask the investigator (in each case). You must follow up with the investigator,” he said.
* By responding to the questions formally asked by The Phuket News, Gen Chayodom indicates only that he was the officer tasked to respond to the questions; doing so is no indication that the decision is his responsibility or within his authority to change.