Col Anotai denied the rumours at the press conference on Sunday (August 5) at The Bay and Beach Club Patong.
Joining him was Preechawut ‘Prab’ Keesin, President of the Pisona Group and the Patong Development Foundation.
Col Anotai confirmed that police had already searched Panya’s bar, the Pum Pui bar on Bangla Rd, and Panya’s house in Patong, but found nothing.
“On the night of July 31, officers from the Patong Police, military personnel from the Royal Thai Army Region 5 and local officials raided the Pum Pui bar.
“Police initially found this place was operating without licence,” Col Anotai said.
Col Anotai explained that Pum Pui bar had been raided twice before and that he had ordered the bar to shut down after the July 31 raid.
Col Anotai also confirmed that police would re-open the case of Panya shooting dead an ice-cream vendor in November last year.
“The prosecutor had ordered not to file the charges in court,” he said.
As previously reported by The Phuket News, Panya turned himself in to Patong Police at 5am on Nov 18 for shooting dead Amporn Suksawat, 47, in what Panya told police was an ‘ongoing dispute’.
According to the police report, Patong Police investigator Maj Teerasak Boonsaeng was notified of the shooting by the Kusoldharm Foundation at 6:10am.
Police arrived at the scene to find Mr Amporn’s body leaning against the wall of the staircase on the 4th floor of the apartment building, located on Soi Sukcharoen, off Phra Metta Rd. The apartment block was used as a residence for staff from the Pum Pui bar. (See story here.)
“High-ranking police commanders are highly interested in Panya’s old cases. Files of cases involving Panya since 2013, which include physical assault and selling pirated goods, will be checked. Specifically for cases in 2015 and 2017, which involve the opening of a club, the killing (of Mr Amporn) and this latest case,” Col Anotai said.
“In the case of the shooting of an ice cream seller on Nov 18, the incident happened before I took this position (as Patong Police Commander),” he said.
“I would like to initially answer that police inspectors handed the case file to the Public Prosecutor’s Office on February 1.
“Then the prosecutor ordered not to proceed with charges and handed the case back to Patong Police on March 12,” Col Anotai explained.
“I took this position after that. Now a high-ranking police commander has called for cases to be rechecked. However, for the order not to press charges, we can do nothing about that,” Col Anotai said.
Regarding the recent surfacing of a video showing a man on Bangla Rd attacking tourists with something like a hammer, Col Anotai confirmed that the suspect was not Panya, but staff of the Pum Pui bar.
“The suspect has been arrested and is now facing charges for the incident,” he added.
In concluding his address to the press, Col Anotai raised many other issues, including drugs, law enforcement on night venues, preserving tourists’ confidence in safety as well as the years-long campaign to have Patong established as a special economic zone.
Mr Preechawut, President of the Pisona Group and leading son of former Patong Mayor Pian Keesin, said the Patong Police had set up a committee to launch a campaign to promote stability, tourism and community in Patong.
“As President of the Patong Development Foundation, we have provided our staff to help with general affairs at Patong Police Station. The purpose is to develop the Patong Police to be ‘standard’ and be an image of Thailand’s tourism.
“This is to welcome general people by focussing on serving people. In addition, the project we have spoken with Col Anotai about is to fix the flood problem (at Patong Police Station) by raising the floor as well as to work on water management for faster draining of rising floodwaters,” Mr Preechawut said.
Mr .Preechawut also rated Bangla Rd as the “most beautiful and cleanest ‘walking street’ in Thailand”.
“Compared with other ‘walking streets’ in Thailand, Bangla Rd is a model of a tourism city. It may not be the best in the world, but now we are studying to make it be the best model in the world.
“From going to walking streets in Pattaya and Chiang Mai, I can say that Bangla Rd is the best road in Thailand in terms of safety, cleanliness and beauty.
“In addition, police, military personnel and security forces in Phuket give importance to this issue. They always patrol and serve tourists efficiently compared with officials in other cities,” Mr Preechawut said.
Regarding the attack on tourists ‘with something like a hammer’, Mr Preechawut said that the incident happened rapidly, but officials responded quickly and had proceeded with charges as well.
“Patong has the most CCTV and has the most support through public sector networks, so let’s be confident and travel in Patong with peace of mind,” Mr Preechawut concluded.