Stephen Ashton: British tourist, 22, shot dead in crossfire at Thai New Year"s Eve beach party


British tourist, 22, is shot dead by stray bullet after Thai New Year's Eve beach party ends in gunfireKilled at a party on the island of Koh Phangan in southern Thailand
Thai man opened fire at a bar on the island in early hours of morning
Shot in the torso and although he was rushed to Ban Don International Hospital he was pronounced deadThailand has the highest number of guns in civilian hands in S.E. Asia

By
Jill Reilly

PUBLISHED:

14:56 GMT, 1 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:02 GMT, 1 January 2013

Killed: Stephen Ashto, 22 was killed by a stray bullet on a Thai beach

Killed: Stephen Ashton, 22 was killed by a stray bullet on a Thai beach

A 22-year-old British tourist has been shot dead at a New Year party on one of Thailand's most famous islands.

Named locally as Stephen Ashton, the holidymaker was killed as he danced with friends at a beach bar on the popular island of Koh Phangan.

It is thought he was caught in crossfire after a fight between rival Thai gangs erupted on the beach, reported the Bangkok Post.

Two groups of Thai youths got into an argument which escalated into a fist-fight at around 4am, according to witnesses.

As one of the groups ran from the bar, one man turned and fired a shot back inside.

Mr Ashton was shot in the torso and although he was rushed to Ban Don International Hospital he was pronounced dead.

'He was shot in the side while he was
dancing on the beach,' local policeman Lieutenant Colonel Somsak Noorod
told AFP, adding the area had been packed with revellers during the
evening's New Year celebrations.

Tragic: Stephen Ashton, 22, was shot as he danced with friends at the the Zoom Bar on Haad Rin Beach (file photo)

Tragic: Stephen Ashton, 22, was shot as he danced with friends at the the Zoom Bar on Haad Rin Beach (file photo)

The shooting took place at the Zoom Bar on Haad Rin Beach.

Mr Ashton was staying with a group of friends at the nearby Pink's Bungalow.

The suspect, named as Ekkapan Kaewkla, 26, was reportedly found in possession of a homemade gun when he was arrested.

Investigation: Thai police speak to holidaymakers about the shooting

Investigation: Thai police speak to holidaymakers about the shooting

Shock: The beach was packed full of people celebrating New Year's Eve when the incident happened

Shock: The beach was packed full of people celebrating New Year's Eve when the incident happened

Koh Pangnag Locator.psd

Killed: Mr Ashton was at a New Year party on one of Thailand's most famous islands

It was claimed he had gone into hiding in the mountains.

Ekkapan admitted he had fought with
another group of men at Zoom Bar but denied firing the fatal shot,
according to the Bangkok Post.

A
Foreign Office spokesman said: 'We are aware of the death of a British
national in Thailand on New Year’s Eve. We are providing consular
assistance to the family.'

A tourist haven and regional base for
multinational companies, Thailand has the highest number of guns in
civilian hands in Southeast Asia – almost four times more than the
Philippines, a country notorious for violent gun crime.

Under Thai law, people under 20 cannot own a gun and strict background checks must be conducted before licenses are issued.

Despite
this, the number of young people carrying firearms has increased 32
percent over the last nine years, says Thailand's Justice Ministry.

Some
blame the rise in gun crime on political instability that has gripped
Thailand since a 2006 coup that removed Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra.

Tragic: The shooting took place in the early hours of this morning at the Zoom Bar on Haad Rin Beach

Gun crime :A tourist haven and regional base for multinational companies, Thailand has the highest number of guns in civilian hands in Southeast Asia

Unrest culminated in a two-month stand-off in 2010 between government troops and “red shirt” protesters backing Thaksin and clashes that killed 91 people.

Others say that the seeming impunity enjoyed by the wealthy has prompted some to take the law into their own hands.

'People pull out their guns at a moment's notice,' said politician Chuwit Kamolvisit, a former massage-parlor tycoon who says he used to pay off local police to run his seedy businesses.