Journalists Killed in 2003 - Motive Unconfirmed: Surapong Ritthi
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||January 2004|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Journalists Killed in 2003 - Motive Unconfirmed: Surapong Ritthi, January 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e6495a523.html [accessed 31 May 2016]|
February 11, 2003, in Patong Beach, Thailand
Surapong, 43, was shot dead at around 3:00 a.m. on February 11, 2003, while he was leaving a grocery store on Rat-U-Thit Road in Patong Beach, a popular tourist destination in southern Phuket Province, according to local journalists. A lone gunman shot him twice in the back of the head at close range.
The Phuket Gazette, a local English-language newspaper, reported that the owner of the grocery store "told the police that the killer was a large man with pale skin in a yellow T-shirt."
Surapong worked as a local stringer in Phuket for the national newspaper Thai Rath, the regional newspaper Siang Tai, and the independent, national television station Channel 3. He also owned several businesses in Phuket, including a bar and restaurant and a shrimp farm, according to the Thai Journalists Association.
Police said that in his capacity as a reporter, Surapong would likely have been aware of illegal dealings in the area, and that they are investigating many possible motives behind the killing. One focus of the police inquiry is Surapong's reporting on illicit activities at a Patong Beach nightclub, a story that local journalists say may have led to the reporter's murder. Surapong had reported that the nightclub featured nude dancers, prompting a police raid that resulted in the bar's closure.
Several of the journalist's colleagues in Phuket believe that Surapong may have been killed in reprisal for his reporting, but other colleagues report that he was probably killed because of an unspecified "personal conflict." The motive behind the murder remains unconfirmed.