4 Phuket cops suspended over duo's deaths

Riot police (background) resting after being deployed to quell a riot on the Thai island of Phuket, during which angry villagers burnt police vehicles over the deaths of two young men on a motorcycle who were being chased by officers in a pick-up tru
Riot police (background) resting after being deployed to quell a riot on the Thai island of Phuket, during which angry villagers burnt police vehicles over the deaths of two young men on a motorcycle who were being chased by officers in a pick-up truck last Saturday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BANGKOK • Four police officers in Thailand's Phuket have been suspended from duty pending an investigation into allegations that they caused the deaths of two males, one of them a teenager, a police spokesman has been quoted as saying by The Nation newspaper.

The deaths of the two led to a riot near the police station late last Saturday night.

The incident took place on Saturday morning when the duo - Mr Pathomwat Panarak, 22, and 17-year-old Thirapong Srisamut - sped past a police checkpoint on a motorcycle in a suspicious manner, prompting the police to give chase in a pick-up truck.

The police vehicle later collided with the fleeing motorcycle. Both Mr Pathomwat and Mr Thirapong died in the collision, reported The Bangkok Post.

Police said 50 methamphetamine pills were found on the body of one of them and nearly 1kg of krathom, an addictive plant leaf, in the backpack of the other.

The deaths of the two young men - both from Ban Don village in Phuket island's Thalang district - led around 300 angry residents to lay siege to the Thalang police station, alleging that the police had used disproportionate force.

The rioters smashed the glass partition in the office of the Thalang police superintendent and damaged other articles in the police station. They also blocked the road in front of the police station with steel barriers and set up tents, blocking traffic to and from Phuket town, the Bangkok Post report said.

The siege continued into the night and when 15 anti-riot police arrived to reinforce the 30-strong police force, the protesters poured petrol on police vehicles parked in the area and set them alight.

Fire engines could not get past the protesters. At least nine vehicles were completely damaged.

The siege ended after Major-General Thinachat, the commander of the 41st Army Circle, arrived on the scene with a number of soldiers and promised to arrange for the relatives of the dead to meet for talks with the police yesterday. The protesters dispersed after that.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2015, with the headline '4 Phuket cops suspended over duo's deaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe