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Pattaya bent out of shape

The lack of respect for the law evidenced during a raid at Club One Pattaya, a popular pub in Chon Buri, last weekend is nothing short of shocking.

Not only was the entertainment operator keeping the venue open beyond the legally permitted hours, and selling alcoholic beverages without a licence, but at least some of their patrons were also found to be taking narcotics.

Meanwhile, a video clip that has gone viral showed Nitipat Chokchaithanaporn, one of the executives at the pub, screaming at police for executing a crackdown on the venue in Bang Lamung district at 3am on a Sunday morning.

Instead of apologising, or showing any form of contrition, he bellowed upon them the following words: “I’ve invested 100 million baht … What power do you have to come to arrest me? I’m already cleared. Why doesn’t the governor come here to inspect for himself?”

Such a brazen reaction begs the question: How did local police and officials allow the situation to degenerate to such an extent that the pub owner assumed he could flout the law so openly?

While Mr Nitipat shook his fist, three staff members reportedly urged 200 patrons, including foreign tourists, to ignore officers’ requests for urine tests and quickly flee the scene. Despite this, law enforcers found numerous bags with narcotics inside.

The following day, Mr Nitipat and Bank Wansrithong, another pub executive, offered a public apology.

“I’m so sorry that my careless remarks damaged the reputation of governors and high-ranking police officers. I was very drunk,” Mr Nitipat said. “I drank too many glasses of wine. I’ve never met these governors or high-ranking police before … I don’t know them personally.”

Pol Lt Gen Panurat Lakboon, an assistant to the national police chief, told the media yesterday that Mr Nitipat has been charged with money laundering and possession of narcotics, and released on bail. Police are also probing whether the pub and its executives are linked to an illegal gambling website owned by Chinese investors, he added.

No matter what the outcome of the probe is, the case shines a spotlight on the dark underworld of Chon Buri, where many businesses seem to nonchalantly bend and break the law.

There have been accusations that officials routinely receive “tea money” in exchange for turning a blind eye to such behaviour; and, sadly, some of these have been substantiated.

In August, a fire at the illegally modified Mountain B pub in Sattahip district led to scores of death and many injuries. Again, a local official reportedly “ignored” the illegal construction work.

In July 2021, Somchai “Longjoo” Jutikitdecha, dubbed the “Gambling Kingpin of the Eastern Region”, masterminded the murder of a motorcycle taxi rider in Pattaya. He had already been arrested in 2020 for opening a gambling den that led to a cluster of Covid-19 cases in Rayong province and was suspected of colluding in money laundering.

If law enforcement officers had rounded up the villains, these mafia kingpins would not be able to thrive, let alone fund some local politicians.

In the latest case, national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas has reportedly sent a special team to look into it and trace all the money transactions that were involved.

Society can only hope that this time, the police catch the masterminds as well as any colluding law enforcers.

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