3 held for Buddha Mountain killings, mastermind remains at large

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Perpetrators reenact the murderous scene at Khao Cheechan that left two teens dead.
Perpetrators reenact the murderous scene at Khao Cheechan that left two teens dead.

Three of six suspects in the murder of a former Phuket coyote dancer and her childhood friend in Sattahip are now behind bars, but the alleged mastermind has likely escaped to Cambodia.

Regional police carried out re-enactments of the July 29 slaying in the Khao Cheechan parking lots over several days in early August, having suspects Kiattisak Surangsangboonmee, 35, Jirasak Unaiban, 34, and Sayan Srisuk, 43, replay their parts in the execution for the media.

Three others, including alleged mastermind and gunman Panya Yingang, 43, along with gunman Narong Warintarawej and driver Kritsana Srisuk, both 22, remain at large.

Chonburi police said they believe they know where the suspects are hiding, but on July 31 police in Sa Kaeo found a Toyota Vigo pickup registered to Panya, leading authorities to believe he slipped over the border to Cambodia.

According to investigators, Panya cooked up a plot to kill 20-year-old Paveena Namuangrak as she was celebrating her 20th birthday with gay hometown buddy Anantachai Jaritrum, 21, another friend, Warathep Masungnern, 20, and Sayan, who was hired by Panya to take them on a tour of the Pattaya Floating Market, Nong Nooch Tropical Garden and the Buddha mountain.

Panya, a wealthy and influential Phuket bar owner with links to the criminal underworld, had become infatuated with Paveena, a former teenage beauty queen from Kalasin who had gone to work in his Pum Pui go-go bar off Bangla Road in Patong in early 2016 when she was just 17.

The bar owner, old enough to be Paveena’s father, made repeated advances, which the girl reportedly refused. She finally left Phuket last year after Panya physically assaulted her in public, her mother told Thai media. She then went to work at a restaurant in Nakhon Pathom with Anantachai, an effeminate boy who liked to wear girls clothing and had been close to Paveena since ninth grade, according to Thai media.

The breaking point apparently came when, over Paveena’s refusal, Panya deposited a million baht into her bank account. There’s no evidence the girl returned the money, but also no sign she started the relationship the older man wanted.

Furious with jealousy and thinking Anantachai was her boyfriend, the bar owner decided that if he couldn’t have Paveena, no one would, police said.

According to police, Panya assigned Sayan to take the teenager on an all-expense-paid trip to Pattaya for her birthday. Jirasak was assigned to follow them in a Toyota Yaris. Panya then had Kittisak drive them to Khao Cheechan in his Vigo while Kritsana drove Narong to the scene in a white Honda CRV.

The two victims were walking back to their rented car when Panya and Narong confronted them. Police allege Narong shot the young woman four times – twice in the head – and Panya shot Anatachai twice in the head.

Kiattisak was then hired for 100,000 baht to drive Panya to Sa Kaeo in the Vigo and toss four guns in the jungle near the Plutaluang train station. Police recovered 9 mm, 38-caliber and .357 handguns and presented them as evidence at the Aug. 3 news conference announcing his arrest.