As we walked past the pubs and clubs near the the Seahorse Circle we were greeted with cries of “Welcome to Phuket!” by revellers streaming past us who were perhaps unused to seeing Westerners in the area. We took a table at a small restaurant, ordered some food and drinks and sat back, taking in the lively scene.
Unbeknownst to us, we were sitting just a few tables away from off-duty police officer Lt Thamarong Suwanchatree, who in just a few short minutes would be dead, shot down in cold blood by a fellow policeman. At first we thought we heard firecrackers, but as a wave of realisation rippled through the crowd at the restaurant and people started diving for cover, we quickly presumed the worst. We decided to make a quick exit and were none the wiser about what had transpired as we walked passed a man with blood pouring from a cut in his face and screaming out into the night, thinking it just the result of a youngster’s night out gone wrong.
It wasn’t until the next day’s police reports came in that we found out. Two policeman were dead – both of whom, like us, were apparently out to have a night of fun with their friends. The difference was that they were armed police, despite the fact they were off-duty.
It is a disturbing thought that one of their stray bullets could have killed me, one of my friends or anyone else unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time that night.
Perhaps I could take some comfort if this were a freak event, unheard of in Phuket, and treated as an extremely serious issue to be confronted by the police hierarchy. Sadly, as our page one report shows, shootings like this are not that uncommon in Phuket and police can barely stifle their yawns when asked by media what is being done to solve the problem.
The condescending indifference of senior police to questions about the fate of armed off-duty police officers involved in a slew of killings in recent years utterly destroys any sense of trust the public might have still have had in their role to protect the people. It is sickening to behold.