HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Bomb squads being kept busy chasing false alarms

Pattaya wins vote to hold 2006 Skål world congress

Governor announces over 75% of Pattaya says “yes” to casino

City announces D-Day coming soon for bike and car rental companies on Beach Road

Pattaya police prepare to tackle traffic problem during peak tourist season

Deputy Mayor orders removal of buildings invading public property

Foreigner of unknown origin dies in Pattaya police cell

Police and crime prevention volunteers sweep Beach Road clean of over 100 streetwalkers

Paranoia strikes again as police are called to inspect another bomb threat

Nigerian gang busted for cocaine smuggling

Bomb squads being kept busy chasing false alarms

Paranoid residents have police running around “diffusing” everything from suitcases to cardboard boxes

Boonlua Chatree

“I’m with the Navy Bomb Squad. If you see me running, try to keep up.”

Since the recent bombing in Bali, plus in the south of Thailand and in the outer Bangkok province of Nakorn Pathom, some of Pattaya’s more paranoid residents have had police running around town diffusing delusional situations. In four separate and unrelated incidents the local constabulary was called in to check supposed bomb threats.

The first occurred last Saturday in Soi Bongkot when a resident called police after he discovered a suspicious looking object in front of his barbershop. The object was actually a discarded letterbox, but the resident wasn’t about to check the contents himself so he called the cops to do it for him.

Police arrived on the scene in the wee hours of the morning to find a 30cm x 30cm x 20cm cardboard box in front of the barbershop. The box had the name of the owner and a Bangkok address printed on the outside. Nonetheless, police cautiously opened the letterbox, only to find nothing inside leaving them to shake their heads and throw in it in the trash.

The second incident occurred when a 71-year-old resident called police after noticing a black “James Bond style bag” (briefcase) on the roadside next to an electrical pole. Concerned that there might something dangerous inside – the elderly gentleman called in the cavalry to inspect the situation.

A team of bomb disposal units and a contingent of police officers arrived on the scene to examine the object. Cops questioned the man’s wife to find out why her husband may have thought the briefcase contained a bomb, and the wife told police that she didn’t know. She said she rarely left the house, but her children had tour boat businesses on Jomtien Beach. However, as far as she knew they did not have business quarrels. But apparently the old man wasn’t taking any chances.

Back on the street it was the same story. An hour went by as the group of specialists decided what to do about the bag. Bomb disposal experts first x-rayed the bag while a crowd of curious onlookers gathered.

X-rays revealed metal objects inside. So the bomb disposal team trained a water jet on the bag in case it contained explosives. Finally, they gingerly opened it and found a pair of metal scissors, notebooks, two packets of cigarettes and documents. Much relieved, officers kept the contents of the bag to review at a later date.

Pol. Capt. Somporn Suponsongkrarm of Pattaya police station said, “This incident shouldn’t have happened. It was merely the outcome of paranoid delusions of some people in the area. The bag could have been placed to stir up some of the residents. However, we will still have to take a close look at the bag and contents before investigating further.”

The third incident turned out to be a bag of laundry (reported in the Pattaya Mail last week), and the fourth was a suitcase an unfortunate Thai tourist had forgotten near a restaurant (see story page 4).

Although these incidents were false alarms due to fear and suspicion they have certainly kept officials on their toes.

Pattaya wins vote to hold 2006 Skål world congress

124 for Pattaya against 71 for London

At the Skål world congress held in Cairns, Australia this week, the bid put forward to host the 2006 World Congress by the local Pattaya team was successful. As the results of the vote were read out, spontaneous applause rang through the crowded Cairns Convention Centre and the Pattaya team were congratulated on their fine performance in promoting Pattaya as the venue.

Pattaya’s Skål team in Cairns lets out a cheers when the results are announced. (Photo by Liam Maceoin)

Since the Skål delegates from around the world represent the ‘movers and shakers’ in the tourism industry, this is indeed a great coup for the “new” Pattaya, to be able to showcase its attractions for this group in 2006. While many may say, “It’s four years away,” we will need all of that time to prepare and present the Skål delegates of the world with the finest promotional programme that we can offer. The opportunities for increased tourist numbers to our resort city will benefit everyone who lives here.

The Pattaya Mail salutes “our” Skål team led by National Councillor Malai Sakolviphak; president of Bangkok skål Brian Sinclair-Thompson; president of skål Pattaya and the East, Murray Hertz; vice-president Peter Malhotra, the publisher of the Pattaya Mail; secretary Andrew Wood, the GM of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort; and Skål members Bob Lee and Eric Hallin. Congratulations on a job well done - and the next item on the agenda is the job coming for 2006!

Governor announces over 75% of Pattaya says “yes” to casino

Results to be sent to central government

Chonburi Governor Sawang Srisakun announced that the survey taken among Banglamung and Pattaya residents last month revealed that residents are overwhelmingly in favor of allowing a casino to be built somewhere in the greater Pattaya region. He said the survey was successful enough to push through to the next stage and submit the results to the central government for further action.

Students from Burapha and Sripatum Universities questioned 60,000 of the area’s population. Experts from the research department completed and tabulated the results at the end of last month.

In a recent statement the governor said that over 75% of residents responded positively to the question as to whether Pattaya should go ahead with building of the country’s first legal casino.

Governor Sawang said, “The results are in. Now, as required by law, we will submit them to the central government for further consideration, after which, there will be an ‘official’ census created to gain the final results.”

Provincial and local business leaders see the opportunity of building the country’s first casino in Pattaya as a way to attract more foreign currency to the nation and attract more tourists to the area.

Despite the fervor in pushing for the project the bureaucratic road must be traveled if it is to be successful. Some sectors in the community oppose the idea as being immoral and a detriment to society. However, the lure of money may prove more powerful than the ideology behind opposition as the next stage progresses.

Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra has already met with executives from the MGM Casino group to discuss the possibilities of building a world-class casino in Thailand.

City announces D-Day coming soon for bike and car rental companies on Beach Road

City aims to reduce vehicles by 50% to provide easier access for pedestrians

The packs of rental motorcycles and cars that line Pattaya Beach Road and prevent ordinary pedestrians from exercising their right to use the city’s public sidewalks will soon have their numbers reduced by half. Authorities plan to issue orders for these rental companies to find another location to park their vehicles and will introduce hourly parking fees for those who operate on Beach Road.

During the monthly meeting of local government department heads, Mayor Pairat Suttithamrongsawat addressed the city’s social and logistical problems. One of the major issues discussed was how to reclaim the streets and footpaths from motorbike and car rental businesses.

The volume of traffic in this area is increasing and since the road parallels the city beach options to improve traffic flow are limited. Vendors and rental companies have long been a major source of obstruction in this area. Residents and visitors are complaining that belligerent peddlers and those renting vehicles have deliberately damaged their cars for parking in what are actually legal parking spaces. These public parking areas have been illegally ‘commandeered’ and a territorial turf mentality keeps most law-abiding motorists from challenging their right to park there.

Creating order out of this chaos has been difficult since this group of business operators refuses to comply with requests for corporation. City Hall is now demanding that these operators relocate 50% of their vehicles to another location, perhaps somewhere else in South Pattaya or at a specified place on Pattaya Third Road. To put teeth in the policy a proposal was made to charge operators for the spaces.

Pattaya police prepare to tackle traffic problem during peak tourist season

Will start with enforcing traffic laws...

Suchada Tupchai

As we all know, the high season in Pattaya is coming right up and thousands of tourists will visit the area. This year an even greater number is expected and Pattaya’s traffic cops are gearing up to see how they can handle what is already an enormous traffic problem. At the top of their list is to crack down on reckless drivers, those who break traffic rules, and those who create obstructions to the flow of traffic.

Traffic police say they are working on ways to ease traffic congestion in the resort.

Police Major Somchai Pongsai, who happens to be captain of the traffic police in Pattaya, said that this year Pattaya will be more colorful and enthusiastic as the World Scout Jamboree will be held in the region at the end of the year and the city wants to make a good impression.

He said road improvements will be made. Traffic symbols are now being refurbished, signs, roads and crosswalks are being painted and baht bus parking places will be designated along the route from Dolphin Circle to Walking Street. Even all the traffic lights will be working!

Mayor Pairat Suttithamrongsawat already budgeted funds to support this project and says work is running on schedule.

A decision was made to make Pattaya 2nd Road a one-way street as soon as Beach Road construction is completed. A previous trial period which turned Pattaya 2nd Road into a one-way street showed the experiment greatly improved traffic flow.

Traffic police will perform spot checks to make sure baht bus drivers and motorcycle taxi drivers are not carrying or using illegal drugs.

Tourist safety is an important issue and the city plans to conduct activities and training seminars for volunteer traffic police and those who provide public transportation.

A contingent of officers will go to all 10 Pattaya schools to give lectures to youngsters on road safety.

Pattaya traffic police kindly ask for support and cooperation. If everyone works together they feel they can better control traffic in the city and reduce accidents.

Deputy Mayor orders removal of buildings invading public property

Gives residents until the end of November to move out

Niran Wattanasatsathorn, one of Pattaya’s deputy mayors, led his team of officials to inspect the progress of the removal of illegal dwellings in the Soi 9, or Soi Bongkot, area according to an order recently authorized by the Pattaya city committee.

Deputy Mayor Niran Wattanasatsathorn and his team inspect illegal dwellings in the Soi 9, or Soi Bongkot area. He gave the residents until the end of November to pack up and get out.

However, at the site there were no signs of any buildings having been removed as ordered. During a talk with the people in the area, residents again asked the deputy mayor to extend the deadline, as they said they could not find new places to move in time.

Niran explained that the removal of the illegally constructed buildings was only to regain beauty and neatness in the city and to make use of the area. He said he did not want to have a slum in the area, which he said could become a place for drugs users and a criminal hideout.

Damrong Wongsaiyut, aged 53, one of the locals living in the buildings for over 6 years said he and other dwellers did not oppose the removal but needed more time to look for a place to move. He pleaded with the city to relax. Damrong said he and his neighbors, some of whom have been living there for 20 years, never create any troubles for the city and do not know of anyone who would commit crimes.

Niran said he has no choice, but nevertheless agreed to an extension; however, he said that the buildings must be removed by the end of November.

Foreigner of unknown origin dies in Pattaya police cell

Had refused food for over a week

Boonlua Chatree

Felix Harte, aged 45, of unknown nationality, died last week in Pattaya jail after refusing to cooperate with police and refusing to eat for over a week.

The strange saga began late last month when Harte was picked up on North Pattaya Road and brought in for questioning after a concerned citizen had phoned police to tell them that Harte was “losing control of himself”. The citizen told the officer on duty that he feared the foreigner (Harte) might get hurt if he continued his weird behavior on the road.

Police detained him at the local lockup, where he refused to cooperate or eat. Police suspected that he might be suffering from mental illness, so they tried to transfer him to Somdej Chao Praya Hospital in Bangkok, but he was refused hospital admission due to lack of authorization papers.

He was again returned to Pattaya police station where his behavior continued. He did not eat or drink and often made loud noises. Police eventually had to handcuff him.

Police also said that since he wasn’t cooperating, they couldn’t find out where he came from or who to contact.

Then, at ten minutes past midnight on October 28th, police found him dead on the cell floor.

When Pattaya police station superintendent, Pol. Col. Padungsak Ubekkanon got to the station to investigate, both of the man’s wrists were seriously injured and swollen; his mouth and nose were bleeding.

Police called Sawang Boriboon rescue unit to move the body to the forensic unit, crime department.

Police and crime prevention volunteers sweep Beach Road clean of over 100 streetwalkers

Continuing the “new” social order campaign

Boonlua Chatree

In keeping with the promise to restore social order in the city during the peak tourist season, over 100 Pattaya police and crime suppression volunteers swooped down Beach Road in an attempt to remove the large number of streetwalkers known to inhabit the area and ply their dubious services to tourists and residents.

A recent police sweep netted over 100 freelancers off Beach Road.

The operation netted over 100 people on the strip between Pattaya Central Road and the South Pattaya pier, all of whom were taken to the Soi 9 police station. There, officers recorded their personal details and fined each of them 100 baht. A stiff warning was issued telling them not return to that area to solicit customers.

Pol. Col. Padungsak Ubekkanon said that the operation was organized after receiving a number of complaints from residents and tourists. A follow-up check on the area revealed these people were creating a nuisance and were a menace to Beach Road. He admitted that this problem has been going on for a long time. Public behavior such as this has contributed much to Pattaya’s reputation as Sex City and officials have reached the point where they feel they must do something about it.

The police chief added that the strict crackdown will last at least until World Scout Jamboree is over. Police officers will continue to patrol the city and inspect any suspicious behavior as well as set up checkpoints at intersections for motorcyclists and vehicles which violate traffic regulations by either not having a license plate or that have been illegally modified. They will also perform body searches to reduce the number of weapons and drugs amongst motorists.

Paranoia strikes again as police are called to inspect another bomb threat

Officers diffuse bag loaded with documents

Boonlua Chatree

Paranoid residents were at it again earlier this week when police and bomb disposal units were called to a location behind the Pranpor 2 Restaurant after the owner reported a suspicious looking bag.

Don’t leave your bags unattended or men in padded suits might try to sneak up on them.

At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening Banglamung police received the call and rushed to the scene to find the bag in a covered area in the car park. Unsure of the situation, they called in bomb disposal experts from the Sattahip Navy Base to assist in the operation.

Another dangerous looking bag had residents calling in the bomb squad.

When naval forces arrived they reviewed the situation and X-rayed the bag for any signs of explosives. But the results were sketchy leaving the ‘experts’ still unsure of the contents. The bomb disposal team removed the bag from the building and used high-velocity projectile equipment, which supposedly renders explosive devices inactive. Then they shot though the bag.

After all these precautionary measures, the bag just sat there and refused to explode. The navy personnel gently opened the bag only to find documents belonging to a 26 year old woman from Khon Khaen. The documents were extremely damaged. Nonetheless, police took the bag and its contents into their possession.

In the way of an explanation, Pol. Lt Col. Pramote Ngampradit of the Banglamung police station said, “The owner of the bag probably forgot to take the bag with her. But since it was found in an unusual place, the restaurant owner had reason to be concerned. Despite the false alarm, we would be negligent if we failed to respond to call. There was no clear evidence that the bag did not contain explosives, so we called in the experts.”

This is the fourth case in under a week that local law enforcement officers have been called to diffuse suspected bombs. To their credit, they have responded with due care each time.

Nigerian gang busted for cocaine smuggling

Allegedly “double-crossed” Thai girl who they used as ‘mule’ to transport cocaine to Brazil

Boonlua Chatree

Police received a tip that drug deal was going down in a hotel room on Central Pattaya Road and when they went to investigate, they surprised three Nigerian nationals and one Thai girl who had 1 kg. of cocaine.

Malake Lisia Jod from Esoto, Sibo Niso from Zimbabwe, and Richard Hidu from Nigeria were arrested along with a Thai woman identified as Siripan Imkamol for possession of a kilo of cocaine.

Malake Lisia Jod from Esoto, Sibo Niso, age 32, from Zimbabwe, and Richard Hidu, aged 26, from Nigeria were arrested along with a Thai woman identified as Siripan Imkamol. Police confiscated their passports and air tickets along with a sum of cash.

Interrogation at the police station revealed that Siriwan was hired by the three men for a fee of $US3000 to meet a Mr. Brown in Kwanchao, China. Apparently after the meeting he was to hand her an air ticket to Brazil - not for the carnival - but instead to meet another man who would give her a parcel of cocaine to be brought back to Thailand. Apparently the plan was to sell the cocaine in the United Sates, for which they figured they’d get about 50 million baht.

When Siripan was not paid for her services in Brazil, she decided to have a stopover in Hong Kong and Penang, then took another bus from Penang to Morchit bus station in Bangkok and stayed at a friend’s home in an outer Bangkok province.

Siripan switched the package to another bag and threw the original one away. A few days later she came to Pattaya to see her brother. But in the meantime, the cocaine gang was looking for her and she was worried they would trace her to Pattaya. So she telephoned the police.

Officers made a plan and told her to meet the gang at their hotel. The cops then made their bust.

Police officer Saneh Khamthiang said that at the moment they are hunting for Mr. Brown who is reported to be staying in a hotel in Bangkok. Police believe that it will not take too long to find him.

The gang is now in police custody for possession of class 2 illegal substances. The judge has refused bail and visitors.


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