A furious mob of 300 torched vehicles at a police station on the tourist destination of Phuket, in a protest against the deaths of two men who died in a motorbike crash while being pursued by police. Many people missed flights because of the riot which blocked a main road to the airport for several hours, according to local media. Hundreds of protestors held up traffic causing long delays on Saturday and Sunday, Amnuay Kraiwuttinan of Phuket police said.
At least nine cars were set alight and 11 others were damaged by the angry mob, which threw objects at a police station, with officers trapped inside. Around 700 army and police reinforcements were called in to deal with the mob that surrounded the station.
"They threw things to break the windows first, then they threw fire bombs at the police station and we had to move inside. It was a riot. It was loud and chaotic," Amnuay said, adding that officers were instructed to keep calm and not retaliate.
Phuket Governor Chamreon Tipayapongthada has warned that those behind damaging police property will be punished and face fines.
The protest centred around the deaths of two young Thai men – Prathomwat Panarak, 22, and a 17-year-old, Thirapong Srisamut. Amnuay said police suspected the men of drug possession after they drove past a police checkpoint and refused to stop.
Police gave chase on a pick-up truck, according to the Bangkok Post. The pursuit ended with the police vehicle colliding with the fleeing motorcycle. The two men were seriously injured in the collision and pronounced dead on being admitted to Thalang Hospital.
Police said 50 methamphetamine pills were found on the body of one of them and a kilogramme of kratom leaves (local alternative to opium) in the backpack carried by the other.
However, relatives of the dead men and the angry crowd accuse the police of overreacting. The crowd only agreed to disperse during the early hours of Sunday, 10 October, when Maj Gen Thinachat Jindangern, commander of the 41st Army Circle, agreed to meet with the relatives of the dead and police to meet for talks at on Sunday.
Prawut Thawornsiri, the police spokesman, posted on Twitter that four police officers who were involved in the incident had been transferred to the Region 8 Provincial Police headquarters, pending investigation.