Family of the seven condemned men now shift their focus to preparing documents to submit a petition to the King for mercy after the court verdict which said that it could find no grounds to avoid imposing the death sentence on those involved and suggested that their execution would act as a deterrent against future acts of this nature.

Relatives of an extended family that was nearly wiped out after eight of its members were executed in a premeditated massacre in Krabi in 2017, on Thursday, appealed to government agencies for help as they feared that as a consequence of the atrocity, they may have no place to live after banks seized the family’s property including two homes. This came just after the Supreme Court confirmed a death sentence for six members of the gang who committed what was described by the court as a callous and brutal crime on the night of July 10th 2017 while it increased the sentence imposed on a seventh man to death meaning all those that took part in the raid face the death chamber at Bang Kwang Prison unless a planned appeal to the Thai King results in the sentence being commuted.

At court, on Thursday this week, were lawyers for the accused men including Kriengsak Saraphee (centre) who are now working with the families of the condemned men (right) including gang leader 41-year-old Surikfat ‘Bung Fat’ Bannopwongsakul (top right inset) to seek mercy from the Thai King. At Krabi Court, the relatives of the massacred family including Asa Sonrub (inset top left) were not allowed to attend the hearing which featured a video teleconference to Nakhon Si Thammarat Prison but were invited back to a special sitting on April 24th next.

At a sitting of the Supreme Court held at courtroom No 8 at the Krabi Provincial Court buildings, on Thursday, a 2-hour verdict was read via a teleconferencing facility to Nakhon Si Thammarat Central Prison where six defendants, already convicted and sentenced to death for a brutal mass murder of a family on July 10th 2017, heard their fate confirmed by the country’s highest court while another was also condemned.

The court ruled that due to the callous nature of the massacre which amounted to premeditated murder carried out by a gang of men wearing military fatigues and led by 41-year-old Surikfat ‘Bung Fat’ Bannopwongsakul, it could not find any justification or extenuating circumstance to not apply the proper penalty which was that the seven men before the court should face execution.

Court saw merit in having the men executed

The court affirmed that such a course had the merit of sending a strong signal to others who might contemplate similar actions in the future and in this way, may act as a deterrent. The court found that the men had acted with no regard, whatsoever, for the law.

This was the second and last appeal by the men after the Appeals Court had already upheld the judgment and sentence imposed by the court of first instance for the crime which took place less than 4 years ago.

Raid on a family home with eleven people inside led to a cold-blooded mass execution, three escaped

On the night of July 10th 2017, following a dispute over a title deed being held by the main perpetrator of the outrage, Surikfat ‘Bung Fat’ Bannopwongsakul, he led a force of seven men to the home of the former village chief of Village Number 1 in tambon Ban Klang in the Ao Luk district of Krabi, 46-year-old Mr Worayut Sanglang also known as ‘Puthan Batat’.

The gang entered the home and made all members of the family who were staying in the house, their prisoners. They were bound and subsequently executed by the attackers.

Eight people, in all, died that night but a mother and her two daughters managed to escape with their lives.

Dispute over a title document taken as security for an old loan already repaid at the root of the atrocity

The dispute between the main perpetrator Surikfat ‘Bung Fat’ and the family is understood to relate to a loan taken out by Mr Worayut’s father and later repaid. However, the 41-year-old ‘Bung Fat’ subsequently refused to return the land deed taken initially as security for the advance.

At the Provincial Court on Thursday, family members of the victims of the crime were not allowed to enter Courtroom 8 while the judgment was being relayed to the prison in Nakhon Si Thammarat. 

They were asked to return on April 24th when a separate hearing would be held for them to hear the judgment of the court.

Family of those who were murdered welcomed the verdict and urged authorities to carry out the sentence

Outside the court building, the family members broadly welcomed the court’s decision that the 7 men should face the death penalty although they expressed apprehension that the men may, somehow, avoid paying the ultimate price as they urged authorities to follow through with the court-ordered punishment for the crime.

Victim family in financial distress because of the horror as banks have seized their land and homes

One of those present was Asa Sonrub, the mother in law of Mr Worayut.

The family explained that they are also appealing to the government and its agencies for help, at this time, as one consequence of the outrage and the actions of the mastermind behind it, Surikfat ‘Bung Fat’, was that they have lost their property to the bank including two houses and fear not having a place to live.

The family, in the court’s judgment on Thursday, was awarded compensation ranging from ฿400,000 to ฿2 million for each slain family member.

Seventh man, Tawatchai Boonkong, added to the list of the condemned in the final court verdict on the case

The seven men sentenced to death were 41 year old Mr Surikfat ‘Bung Fat’ Bannopwongsakul in addition to 29-year-old Arun Thongkham, 30-year-olds Khomsan Wiangnon and Abdullo Dolo, 36-year-old Prachak Bunthoi and 41-year-olds Thanachai Chamnong and Tawatchai Boonkong.

In the two hour judgment handed down by the court, there was an unpleasant surprise for 41-year-old Tawatchai Boonkong whose sentence was increased to death along with the other six who took part in the massacre.

Wife of mastermind gets 1 year 

An eighth defendant before the court, reportedly the wife of ‘Bung Fat’, 41-year-old Chalita Sangchote, received a 12-month prison sentence for helping her condemned husband to hide stolen items from the deadly raid on the family home.

The court was satisfied that she was not aware of the atrocity prior to it being committed by her husband and took no part in it.

After the judgment, no further action was taken in her case as she had already served the sentence handed down while being held on remand.

Lawyers for the defendants say they must focus now on a request for mercy from the King as the death penalty is still in force in Thailand

A lawyer for the defendants, Kriengsak Saraphee, indicated that after the judgment, the families of the men are now focused on submitting an appeal to the King seeking a royal pardon to commute the sentence and that such a petition will be lodged within 60 days subject to the proper protocols. 

Thailand last executed a condemned person on the 18th June 2018 in a surprise and unannounced move which sent a signal that the death penalty, supported by up to 93% of the population, is still in force.

26 year old executed in June 2018

26-year-old Teerasak Longji received a lethal injection in the execution chamber at Bang Kwang Prison. He had been convicted of murdering a 17-year-old young person by stabbing him 17 times as he robbed his smartphone.

Condemned prisoners are normally transferred to Bangkok’s Bang Kwang Prison after the death penalty is upheld and all legal avenues of appeal are extinguished.

In 2018, there were over 500 people on death row in Thailand including several westerners and women for crimes ranging from drug offences to murder. 

However, in August last year, the Thai King His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn commuted the death sentence for all condemned prisoners who had not yet been granted such a pardon.

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