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Journalist shot dead by unidentified gunman

(SEAPA/IFEX) - 13 January 2012 - On 12 January 2012, a Thai journalist and political activist was shot dead in the morning rush hour in Thailand's provincial resort island of Phuket, local media reported. Police are investigating the motive for his killing but have not ruled out the journalist's continued exposés on corruption in the management of the province's land encroachment problem as a major cause.

According to a city newspaper "Phuket Wan", 40-year-old Wisut Tangwitthayaporn, publisher of a city newspaper "Inside Phuket", was shot four times by the gunman, riding pillion on a Honda Click motorcycle, around 9.10am local time as he was driving his Honda Jazz car to his newspaper office in the heart of the city. Two bullets hit his right chest and another hit his right shoulder. He was rushed to the nearby Vachira Hospital and was pronounced dead by the doctor at 10.40am.

Web-based television Springnews reported that his wife, Chiraporn Hosaukul, who was in the car with Wisut, was unharmed in the attack. She was quoted as telling police after the incident that the motorbike cut in front of her husband's car as it was making a left turn into the main road. She said the pillion rider, who wore a helmet, shot her husband. The three bullet caches and the attacker's sunglasses were found in front of the Honda car. She remembered the vehicle's number on the plate but not the province in which it was issued.

Both local and national newspapers quoted District Police Chief Pol Major Colonel Chote Chidchai as saying that an initial police investigation would look into the newspaper's exposé on corruption involving Phuket's Land Department official's issuance of land titles in Freedom Beach and Nakale in Krathu District, to a group of influential businessmen and politicians.

Wisut has fought against land encroachment on Freedom Beach and has been reporting on the issue for the past two years.

The police officer said they would not rule out other possibilities such as personal conflict, gambling and extra-marital affairs.

Phuket Wan reported on 12 January 2012 that Wisut was known to be a core member of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, also known as the Red-Shirt movement, in the predominantly Yellow-Shirt province. He was to lead a delegation of pro-Red-Shirt Pheu Thai party officials from Bangkok to inspect Phuket's Freedom Beach the next day.

The Thai Journalists' Association and its provincial branch are investigating the case. Wisut is the first media worker to be killed in Thailand this year.

Last year, Phamon Phonphanit, reporter with the local newspaper "Sue Samut Atyakam" was killed in a bomb blast in the Sungai Kolok district in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat.
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