Krabi massacre suspect detained

Forensic police work at the house in Krabi where 11 family members were shot on Monday after gunmen raided the premises. Eight were killed and three seriously injured. (Photo courtesy of the Crime Suppression Division)

Police on Friday detained a rock-grinding mill operator for questioning suspecting him of ordering the execution-style slayings of a Krabi village head and his family. Now they are hunting for the gunmen, believed to be retired soldiers, in Nakhon Si Thammarat province.

That followed an extensive investigation that included questioning of an eyewitness who survived the attack that left eight people dead, including three children.

According to sources, the eyewitness was at the home of village headman Worayuth Sanglang in Ao Luk district when he returned there at about 8pm on Monday. Worayuth was detained together with other family members and visitors, 11 people in all.

Crime Suppression Division detectives checked Worayuth's mobile phone records and found that at about 9.30 that night, he called a friend who was a shareholder in a rock-grinding company and talked with the person for nearly 10 minutes.

Detectives believe the person Worayuth spoke with was involved in the massacre and they have detained that person for questioning and later released him. 

Sources also said that detectives suspected a group of retired soldiers carried out the shootings. They were hired to guard palm plantations in Krabi and Phangnga provinces and some of them demanded protection money from growers.

Detectives believe the retired soldiers also acted as debt collectors and might have been hired to collect money from Worayuth. The village head was said to have received money from a group of rock millers to persuade local people not to oppose a new grinding plant.

When his efforts apparently failed, the debt collectors demanded that Worayuth return the money. He failed to do so and the conflict with the businessmen grew, the sources said.

The eyewitness told police that after Worayuth returned home on Monday night, the men who had come to the house negotiated with him in a separate room. When the talks failed, the group of about five gunmen started to shoot their hostages one by one.

The eyewitness was one of the three people who survived the massacre, having fainted just as the gun was fired. The bullet only grazed the person's head as a result.

The eyewitness told police that only one attacker wore a woolen balaclava to conceal his identity, possibly because he was a local resident and did not want to be recognised. The other attackers spoke in Central Plains accents and did not cover their faces.

Detectives have gone to Nakhon Si Thammarat where they believe the gunmen are hiding.

Sources said detectives also learned from a friend of Worayuth that the village head had been wealthy in the past but later got into debt and pledged a plot of land with a local influential person.

Before he died, Worayuth had borrowed 500,000 baht from a friend and tensions arose because he was being pressured to redeem the land.

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