Published on Thursday, January 3, 2013

Government issues new travel warning after Briton shot dead

The Foreign Office is warning holidaymakers of the dangers of travelling to Thailand following the fatal shooting of City trader Stephen Ashton on Koh Phangan on New Year's Day.

Police, who have since arrested a 26-year-old Thai man following the shooting, believe Mr Ashton was caught in crossfire between two rival gangs who staged a shoot-out at a beachside bar in the Thai resort popular with backpackers.  

The Foreign Office warns that seven British nationals have been murdered in Thailand since January 2009 and it says that western tourists have been victims of vicious, unprovoked attacks by gangs in Koh Phangan.

"These attacks are particularly common around the time of the Full Moon parties and generally occur late at night near bars in Haad Rin on Koh Phangan," it said.

"On 1 January 2013 a British national was killed in a shooting incident while at a beach party in Haad Rin. Exercise caution when in this area at any time, especially after dark.

"Violent assaults and robberies have been reported in Chaweng, Koh Samui. Attacks have also occurred in other tourist districts in Thailand frequented by western tourists including Chiang Mai. Care should be taken in such areas, especially at night."

The Foreign Office also warns of incidents of sexual offences committed against foreign men and women, especially in the Koh Samui archipelago.

"There have been incidents where tourists have had their drinks drugged in both tourist areas and red light districts," it said.

"Be careful about taking drinks from strangers and at clubs and parties, particularly in Koh Samui and Pattaya and, at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan, where date rapes have been reported. Some British nationals have suffered severe psychiatric problems because of drug use, resulting in some suicides.

"Tourists have also been robbed after bringing visitors to their hotel rooms. In some cases their drinks were drugged. Ensure that your passport, wallet and other valuable possessions are secure at all times."

In the latest shooting, police said the suspect, Ekkapan Kaewkla, claimed his group was outnumbered during a fight at about 5am on January 1, so he decided to use his homemade gun to protect himself. Mr Ashton was hit by a stray bullet as he danced on the beach.

In a separate incident, Thai police have arrested three suspects in the rape of two Russian tourists in Pattaya.

The Russian women told police they were abducted and thrown into a pickup truck by three men on the morning of December 25 as they were walking back to their hotel after celebrating Christmas Eve.

They said their abductors took them to a forested area near a reservoir outside Pattaya, where they robbed and raped them at knifepoint and gunpoint.

The Foreign Office has not amended its overall advice for Thailand.


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