Koh Chang Preservation Group leader arrested in April plot to kill Pong village chief


A leader of the Koh Chang Preservation Group has been arrested for allegedly masterminding a plot to kill a Pong Sub-district village chief.

Sombut Sonthiphin, 43, a one-time candidate for the Koh Chang Council, turned himself in to Region 2 police July 4. He denied charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

Nikorn Kradkrai, 44, headsman for Moo 3, his wife Paengsri Saensila, 45, and son Mukhpol  Kradkrai, 11, were hospitalized with treatable gunshot wounds following the April 25 incident at the Kradkrai family antique shop and residence. Nikorn was grazed in the shoulder while his wife and son sustained shots to the legs.

Attempted murder suspects point to Sombut Sonthiphin as the man they say hired them for the job. Sombut denies the charges.Attempted murder suspects point to Sombut Sonthiphin as the man they say hired them for the job. Sombut denies the charges.

Nikorn stated that he was eating while sitting on the porch of his house when a red Isuzu pickup truck approached and a man, seemingly drunk, got out and ordered his driver to get him two beers. After paying, the drunk pulled an MK-33 rifle and sprayed the house with 21 bullets.

At the time, Nikorn told police he knew of only one dispute that could have prompted the shooting. He has been in conflict with a property-development firm in Koh Chang owned by a prominent figure there. Nikorn, coming to the aid of a Moo 3 resident, accused the company of swindling a woman of 10 million baht during the sale of a 24-rai parcel of land in Pong.

Police allege that Sombut was that prominent figure, the owner of numerous businesses and well-connected to the political establishment. Investigators allege he hired Sriracha resident Anucha Srijanthum, 31, Sanong Wongplee, 39, of Trat, and Ekanat Netjak, 53, to kill the Pong headman. Investigators earlier arrested all three, claiming Ekanat identified the target for Anucha, the driver, and Sanong, the shooter. A fourth man, Prasert Saelim, 50, is believed to have supplied the automatic rifle and remains at large.

Sanong fingered Sombut to police after the Koh Chang luminary allegedly cheated them out of all but 3,000 baht of their 100,000 baht fee, and refused to protect them from police. The men were forced to hide out in a rubber plantation in Chumphon until being caught.

At police headquarters, Sombut belligerently denied the charges against him, but lashed out at Sanong, shouting that “you are not a man” for identifying him to police.

Police made the usual big show of the arrests for the media, parading the alleged gunman and driver in front of the camera at the Khunrak Resort where the murder plan was supposedly hatched; the site where the Isuzu was dumped, the spot where the gun was ditched and, finally, to the scene of the shooting.