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Thailand 4 November 2005

Journalist murdered in resort city after exposing prostitution network

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the murder of Santi Lammaneenil, a local newspaper editor and reporter based in the southern resort city of Pattaya whose recent exposé of a prostitution network in hotels resulted in the transfer of several police officers.

In a letter to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the press freedom organisation called for an impartial and exhaustive investigation to identify the perpetrators, and said the police must not rule out the possibility that Lammaneenil was killed because of his reporting.

“The Thai government’s credibility is at stake,” the letter said. “Proclaiming that press freedom is guaranteed in Thailand is not enough to reassure journalists. If this gangster-style killing is not solved, many Thai reporters will feel at risk.”

The editor of the local Pattaya Post newspaper and a correspondent for Channel 7 television and the national dailies Khao Sod and Khom Chad Luek, Lammaneenil was found dead in his BMW car with his hands tied on 2 November. The Nation newspaper said he had three gunshot wounds to his head. He had reportedly been kidnapped the day before by three men.

Aged 38, he had been a journalist for more than 10 years. His recent exposé of a prostitution ring in Pattaya hotels implicated a number of police officers, five of whom were quickly transferred after the story was published.

The Bangkok Post daily newspaper quoted Lammaneenil’s wife, Malee Seedaeng, as saying a man had come twice to their home asking to see him. Lammaneenil had been staying with relatives for several days because he feared being kidnapped or killed.

The provincial police chief, Lt. Gen. Jongrak Juthanod, said the police were considering three possible motives: Lammaneenil’s gambling debts, an extramarital affair, and his revelations about illegal practices in certain Pattaya establishments.

Lammaneenil was not the first Thai journalist to be killed this year. Pongkiat Saetang was gunned down in February in the far-south city of Had Yai. The editor of the Had Yai Post, a fortnightly, he was known for criticising a number of local figures.

Manop Rattanacharungporn of the daily newspaper Matichon was seriously wounded in the leg in a murder attempt in June in Phangnga, another southern city. He had been writing about the illegal appropriation of state land.

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