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Rest in Peace Stephen
It was a full moon on December 28th, 2012. Despite the moon waning gibbous on New Year's Eve there was enough lunacy around on the biggest party night of the year to result in the shooting and killing of a 23-year-old British man in Haad Rin. Very little other information has been released by the authorities.
It has been reported that Stephen David Ashton was killed by a bullet in the early hours of January 1st in the Zoom Bar on Haad Rin Beach. There were a number of bullets fired. It is believed that the Thai youth responsible was drunk and in a group. Mr. Ashton was staying at Pink Bungalow. No other details have been released other than he was shot by a 'Thai youth'.
The story was picked up by Thai Visa and extra details were added by the prolific blogger Richard Barrow.
I don't wish to speculate about the details. There are no mitigating circumstances. Whether the British man was the target of a revenge shooting after an altercation or he was an innocent bystander who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time is of primary concern to the investigation (if there is one) and to journalists.
What more people will want to know is how this could happen? Every Full Moon Party is patrolled by dozens of Thai police both in uniform and in plain clothes. Sadly, they spend all their time looking for foreigners taking drugs. They are not interested in searching Thai youth for weapons or for checking the bars for flashpoints of violence.
Koh Phangan police have a strange relationship with the Koh Phangan family that control much of Haad Rin. They are the landlord for the busy bars along Haad Rin Nok and in the town. They get a cut of the millions of Baht that each party generates. The situation is that the Thai police are told to tolerate the party even though it goes on beyond legal licensing hours. They also know to keep their distance from the young gangster element in and around the town. Koh Phangan until the late 1970s was a very lawless place. Something of that same culture still persists in Haad Rin, Koh Phangan.
A new police chief was recently brought in from outside to rectify this state of affairs. He has had some effect in destroying the weed growing operations on the island but has not been able to do much to tackle the corruption surrounding the FMP.
Perhaps letting people grow and smoke a bit of weed is much better than not doing enough to stop gun attacks on what is meant to be the happiest night of the year.
No doubt the death of Stephen Ashton will go largely unreported. Google and the mainstream media do remarkably well in burying these type of stories. Both are mostly concerned with selling rooms and with selling the party. In Liverpool they are fighting for justice for those who died in the Hillsborough Disaster. They are at last getting that justice. When will we be able to say the same for the parents of Stephen Ashton?
The Guardian has just covered the same story on its website. The story is half way down the front page. The alter story reveals Stephen Ashton was 22 years old, not 23. It also states that he was caught in cross fire between rival gangs. Intially everyone commenting on Thai Visa assumed he had picked a fight with the wrong Thai man.
Police have made an arrest. The supect fled into the mountainous interior of the island was soon apprended.
The online newspaper also claims that 7 British nationals have been murdered in Thailand since 2009.