Thai Police Arrest Alleged Illegal Gambling Den Owner Over Murder of Informant

  • Authorities arrested Somchai Jutikitdecha on Thursday for ordering the killing last year
  • Other arrests in connection with the case include two gambling den supervisors, two assassins
  • The attackers shot the 47-year-old gambling den informant dead in Pattaya on July 28 of last year
  • Thai PM Prayut said he would discuss legal gambling after police linked dens to COVID-19 spread
A policeman arrests a suspect
Thai police now have five suspects in the murder case of an illegal gambling den informant after arresting a casino owner believed to have ordered his killing. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Authorities get their man

Police in Thailand have arrested an alleged illegal gambling den owner believed to have ordered the murder of a police informant last year. In total, authorities are now detaining five men in connection with the attack.

a 47-year-old taxi motorcyclist shot dead on July 28, 2020

On Thursday morning, authorities in the Muang District of central Thailand apprehended 56-year-old casino operator Somchai Jutikitdecha, otherwise known as Longjoo Somchai. The alleged illegal gambling den owner stands accused of ordering the murder of Prathum Sa-adnak, a 47-year-old taxi motorcyclist shot dead on July 28, 2020.

Police have already arrested Manas Imnam and Niphon Panthong, the men believed to have carried out the assassination. Two gambling den supervisors are also in custody for their part in organizing the attack.

The series of events

According to a report from the Bangkok Post, the trouble began after the victim took photos of an illegal gambling den in Pattaya for police last year. Pattaya authorities then raided the property.

As the den’s owner, Somchai allegedly ordered gambling den supervisors Suphan Mai-ngam and Thaworn Sarakul to organize the murder of the informant. The two men subsequently hired Manas Imnam and Niphon Panthong, who shot Prathum Sa-adnak behind a school in Pattaya on July 28.

After their arrest, the assassins initially blamed the attack on a personal grudge. However, the victim’s family complained to the police chief, which led to an investigation into the murder. Authorities ultimately apprehended the two gambling den supervisors on December 9.

authorities also took his son into custody

Police raided Somchai’s property on Rat Bamrung Road in the Muang District this Thursday. While arresting the alleged illegal casino owner, authorities also took his son into custody. The 26-year-old faces charges of hosting illegal gambling and money laundering.

This is not the first time Thai police have arrested Somchai, who is believed to run a network of illegal casino dens in Eastern Thailand.

In mid-February, authorities in Rayong province apprehended him after the seizure of hundreds of poker machines at a warehouse in Khon Kaen. Police released Somchai on bail shortly after his arrest. He is now back in custody.

The illegal gambling issue

At the beginning of the year, Thailand experienced a rampant wave of new COVID-19 infections. In part, police blamed this on “superspreader” events in the country’s illegal gambling dens, particularly in Bangkok. Law enforcement bodies increased efforts to crack down on the operations as a result, leading to a large number of arrests.

In an effort to curb the growing number of illegal gambling dens, in January Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he would consider legalizing the activity. He planned to host public discussions to weigh up the pros and cons of the issue, despite actually opposing the idea himself.

The country’s Stop Gambling Foundation (SGF) believes that introducing a legal market could actually increase traffic for gambling dens. The group has argued that illegal casinos will attract those unable to bet through legal means because of “rigorous standards”.

Speaking during an earnings conference call earlier this month, CEO of gambling operator Donaco International Ltd Lee Bug Huy expressed doubt over the possibility of any gambling law change in Thailand. “At this stage we do not expect the Thai government to legalize gambling in the country,” he told investors.