While on holiday in Thailand, 22-year-old investment broker Stephen Ashton was shot in the side at a beach bar on Koh Phangan, a popular island. Police say he was dancing on the beach when an argument between two groups of young men intensified suddenly. It’s believed he got caught in the crossfire and was rushed to Brandon International Hospital on Koh Samui, a neighbouring island, where he was pronounced dead.
Ashton quit his job in November and was taking a sabbatical, travelling from Thailand to Australia. While in Thailand, he was staying with some friends in a group of basic wooden beachside properties called the Pink’s Bungalows. These are located near Haad Rin, which is known for its Full Moon parties every month. These events attract thousands of partygoers from around the world, but tourists are known to be mugged or sexually attacked. Even many Thai citizens don’t visit the area due to its reputation.
About 300 people were at the Zoom Bar New Year’s bash on the beach of Haad Rin. Witnesses say two groups of young men started to argue, and a fist-fight broke out at about 4am. When one of the groups began to run from the bar, one of the young men turned and fired his gun into the bar area, hitting Ashton in the torso. Police have arrested 26-year-old suspect Ekkapan Kaewkla and found a homemade gun in his possession. At the time of his arrest, he admitted to fighting in the bar but denied firing his gun. Police have questioned him and expect to charge him with manslaughter. Kittakarn Krammothong, a police colonel, said Ashton wasn’t involved.
Ashton’s mother, 48-year-old Diane, was on a skiing holiday when authorities notified her of the incident, and she’s flying to Thailand over the next day or two to identify his body, as well as to meet with the British Ambassador Mark Kent in Bangkok. Several relatives gathered at the family’s home in Purley earlier this week. A relative says Diane is very distraught and doesn’t have firm travel plans, as she’s waiting for the consulate to contact her.
CSS Partners chief equity strategist Michael Jarman said Ashton was working in the city but joined another company that didn’t work out. He doesn’t have anything bad to say about Ashton, who he described as ambitious, full of life and an example to other 22-year-olds who blame their problems on the world. He was a university graduate and was working his way up through pure determination.
Ambassador Kent warns travellers of the risks of travelling to Thailand and encourages them to read the Foreign and Common Wealth Office’s travel advice. He says most people enjoy their holidays without any trouble. However, there are risks, which are laid out in their travel advice on the FCO website. They mention previous incidents involving Western travellers in Koh Phangan. There are risks when travelling anywhere, and he believes Thailand isn’t totally trouble-free.
This advice was just updated in November and says seven British tourists have been killed in the country since January 2009. Western travellers are noted to have been victims of violent attacks by Koh Phangan gangs without being provoked. The FCO says the attacks are especially common around Full Moon parties and usually happen at night close to bars in Haad Rin. It cautions nationals to be careful at all times when walking in the area, particularly after nightfall.