BANGKOK: More than a hundred participants in a party in a bar on a popular Thai island, including 89 foreigners, received suspended jail terms and fines on Thursday (Jan 28) for breaking national COVID-19 restrictions.
Police arrested the 109 partygoers in a raid Tuesday night on the Three Sixty Bar on Koh Phangan in southern Thailand. The foreigners are from more than 10 countries, including the US, the UK, Russia, Switzerland and Denmark.
The island in Surat Thani province is a popular destination for young backpacking travelers and is known for its all-night, full-moon beach parties. However, Thailand barred virtually all tourists from entering the country in April 2020 because of the coronavirus.
Police said they tracked plans for the party on social media, where the bar promoted the event to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
The court conducted the trial over a video link. The judge sentenced each defendant to one month in jail, which was suspended if they have good behavior for a year. He also fined them 4,000 baht (US$130) each.
The Thai organiser and two Thai bartenders were given fines of 10,000 baht (US$330) and two years in jail, also suspended for a year.
One of the partygoers, Russian Dmitry Kopylov, apologised Thursday for his actions.
“I wanted to say sorry,” he said. “Nobody wants to make any kind of problem or do something wrong.”
The party organiser said he had made an honest mistake.
“I thought Surat Thani province was in the COVID-19 green zone. We didn’t have any new cases for 14 days. So I thought we were allowed to organise an activity," Pongdaran Limochakul said.
Until recently, Thailand appeared to have the disease under control, with very few cases of local transmission. But a new outbreak has led to cases in many provinces, forcing a reimposition of some restrictions.
On Thursday, authorities reported 756 new cases, pushing Thailand's total to 16,221.
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