Panya Yingdang, 39, also known as ‘Sia Auan’, admitted to the murder of Paweena Namuangrak, 20, and her male friend Anantachai Jaritram, 21, on July 29, in Chonburi, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda told a media conference in Bangkok today.
He was speaking after leading the interrogation of the suspect, who was flown from the border to Bangkok on yesterday night (Aug 21).
The suspect told police he and his accomplices carried out the crime, the police chief said.
He declined to give details of how the suspect and his gang plotted the murders.
Panya’s account contradicted some of the testimony given by the five other suspects already in custody but that would pose no obstacle for police handling the case, which would be evidence-based, Gen Chaktip said.
The 39-year-old Phuket bar owner is alleged to be one of the two gunmen who shot dead the young couple in broad daylight in the parking lot at Khao Chee Chan, also known as Buddha Mountain, in Chonburi’s Sattahip district on July 29.
Police suspect jealousy and vengeance were the motive for the killing, as the woman had worked in Panya’s Pum Pui bar on Bangla Rd in Patong and was said to be his favourite girl.
Panya disappeared after the shooting, his pickup found abandoned near the Cambodian border in Sa Kaeo. He was arrested in Prey Veng province in Cambodia on Aug 15, reportedly heading to Vietnam.
Five other suspects in the double murder are already in police custody – alleged second gunman Narong Warintharawet, 22; Kritsana Sisuk, 22, Kiatisak Suransaengmilboon, 35, Sayant Sisuk, 43, and Jirasak Unaiban, 34.
Gen Chakthip said he did not believe Panya would try to take his own life.
The suspect had learned only later, from social media, that he shot the young couple in front of the carved Buddha image at Khao Chee Chan. He had thought it was just an ordinary stone carving.
“After learning it was the Buddha carving, the suspect became scared. He said he is fearful of sacred things,” the police chief said.
He also said that two-three bullets had misfired as they unleashed a hail of shots at the couple.
After interrogation and the media conference Panya was taken to Chonburi for a crime scene re-enactment. He briefly told a media crew that he had heard of the police chief’s remark that he had only two choices – to be captured dead, or alive. That was when he decided to get as far away as he could.
Panya is a native of Surin province’s Buachet border district. He used to work as a manager of a disco in Pattaya, Chonburi before moving to Phuket some 20 years ago. He initially worked for a nightspot on Patong Beach, where he was a toilet attendant – providing services such as a massage and refreshing towels in return for tips.
He later entered bids for the toilet service contracts at several entertainment venues in Patong, and earned a lot of money. He expanded his business by running on Bangla Rd, the major night strip. His nightspot thrived. From that small bar, he expanded, opening more venues along the road, according to Thai media reports.
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