Journalists Killed  |  Thailand

Surapong Ritthi

freelance

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.

Motive Unconfirmed: CPJ is investigating to determine whether the death was work-related.


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