Partygoers on Ko Phangan get off with suspended jail terms but must watch their step in paradise
Hearing on Friday was held by video link and saw police transport 111 accused party people from the police station on the idyllic island to a multi-purpose public building for the remote court hearing before the Ko Samui Provincial Court.
The owner of a bar on Ko Phangan was sentenced to 2 years in prison by the Ko Samui Provincial Court on Friday but the judge suspended the sentence for 12 months and fined him ฿40,000. One of his bar staff, present last Tuesday night when police raided a large party to celebrate the birthday of the establishment, was handed down a similar sentence. The court also sentenced 109 party-goers including 89 foreigners from western countries to suspended jail terms with a ฿4,000 fine.
89 foreigners on Ko Phangan who were arrested by police on the party island on Tuesday, have been handed down suspended one-month jail sentences at an especially convened court sitting in a district office of the island to accommodate the large number of defendants who appeared before the Ko Samui Provincial Court.
All were seated at an appropriate distance apart and were required to wash their hands with gel and wear facemasks. Each defendant was checked by officials and police as they entered the building.
International mix of foreign defendants before the court, most of them women from western countries
The party-goers from western countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Russia and Switzerland comprised of 51 women and 38 men.
They were joined in court on Friday by 20 Thai adults living it up at the Three Sixty Bar on the island which was celebrating its 5th birthday. 7 of them were men and 13 women.
All received the same sentence in addition to a ฿4,000 fine in the verdicts handed down. The judgment of the court was delivered from the larger and adjacent island of Ko Samui, to the south, by video link.
Suspended jail term hangs over everyone convicted on Friday after the party at the Three Sixty Bar
The suspended sentences mean that the 109 customers must be on their best behaviour for 12 months as another court appearance will trigger the one-month prison sentence automatically.
The stakes are higher for the owner of the Three Sixty Bar who, in court, admitted to being the organiser of the party which was widely promoted on social media.
40-year-old Pangandaran Lim-ochakul was sentenced to 2 years in prison which was also suspended as was that of his bartender, 47-year-old Somsakul Kiartnarong. Both men were fined ฿40,000.
Partygoers and bar owner contravened the emergency decree and control orders under the Communicable Disease Act according to court charges
After the hearing, the media was briefed by Police Colonel Panya Niratmanon, the Chief of Police on Ko Phangan.
He explained that all the defendants were charged with contravening the emergency decree and the Communicable Disease Act given the size of the gathering and the party that was organised.
These were the charges brought before the provincial court hearing.
Police raided the party in force on Tuesday night and took the 111 people into custody at Ko Phangan police station.
Thai authorities, managing the Covid-19 virus, have learned that party type gatherings where alcohol is consumed are particularly dangerous super spreader events.
Island is a paradise for younger people and parties but also has a reputation for illicit narcotics
The island, famous for its Full Moon parties and loved by young western backpackers, is seen by many foreigners as a paradise retreat.
It is home to thousands of stranded tourists and long-term expats living out the Covid-19 pandemic there, many opting not to return to their home countries after the kingdom closed its borders to uncontrolled tourist visitors last April.
In recent years, the island has seen numerous western foreigners arrested for dealing in narcotics and has a reputation for illegal drug-taking.
Owner says he was unaware that he was breaking the law and would have scotched the event if told
The proprietor of the bar defended himself on Friday admitting he made a mistake but pointed out that if officials had warned him, he would have cancelled the event immediately.
He claimed that he was under the false impression that an absence of a case of Covid-19 infection over a 14 day period in Surat Thani province meant that disease control measures were not being enforced by police.
Earlier, a police officer with Surat Thani Immigration Bureau, Police Colonel Suparerk Pankosol, revealed that officers had obtained intelligence on the event from extensive social media posts online where it was publicly and openly advertised quoting an entrance fee of ฿100.
About the Author
Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.