ON A WARM October Saturday night, hundreds of locals surrounded Phuket's Thalang Police Station, broke windows, set fire to cars and injured more than 30 officers. The riot was over the deaths in a police pursuit of two young local men. It took the Army to end the siege by trucking in hundreds of soldiers from a distant province. The independent report into the deaths of the two young men, supposedly to a 30-day deadline, has yet to be produced. A total of 66 names of rioters have been noted and, according to authorities, arrests will be made. But when?
A RUST-BUCKET of a ship named the Kunlun was apprehended off Phuket in March in unusual circumstances, when a Spanish crewman tried to commit suicide and required hospital care. Thai authorities, urged on by international poaching watchdogs, impounded the vessel and its valuable cargo of illicitly obtained Antarctic toothfish. The cargo was taken ashore then, weeks later, returned. Phuketwan headlined an article 'Poacher Ship Could Sail With New Captain at Any Time' in July. Sure enough, that's what happened in September. The vessel, renamed the Taishan, has not been sighted since. An ''investigation'' led to three Customs officers being transferred. The suicidal Spanish crewman survived and was sent home.
AUSTRALIAN expat Mark Pendlebury was charged with murder over the fatal stabbing of a security guard outside the TaiPan nighclub in Patong in March. But the charge was dropped when security camera footage obtained by Phuketwan confirmed that Mr Pendlebury was not the aggressor. He saw patrons being thrown out and stopped to record the eviction on his mobile telephone, for safety's sake. Chased along a row of tuk-tuks, Mr Pendlebury was subjected to a ''pack attack'' and stomped in the head. Fearing for his life, he pulled his sailing knife and waved it. The security guard's family was compensated.
WHEN an American diver vanished overboard in darkness in April from a boat on its way to the Similan islands from Phuket, authorities mounted a search. But within days, questions were being asked about whether the initial reaction was swift and complete. A thorough aerial search should have begun at first light. Joshua Devine, 36, was never found. His wife Tadsana described the search, with rescue services more concerned about Thai New Year commitments, as ''sight-seeing.'' Devine's mother and sister flew from the US to try to find out more. Marine Police admitted they didn't have the vessels or the budget for fuel for a proper search. Soon after, Marine Police and the Royal Thai Navy safely rescued the crew of a cargo ship swept onto rocks off Phuket when the captain tried to drop anchor in a storm. The anchor chain wasn't long enough to reach the bottom.
PHUKETWAN journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian faced a three-day trial at Phuket Provincial Court in July. A judge in September dismissed all criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges against them. The charges, with a maximum penalty of seven years' jail, were brought by the Royal Thai Navy over a single paragraph reproduced from a Reuters news agency series on Rohingya trafficking. Reuters won a Pulitzer prize for their series but offered the Phuket pair no support. Morison said this was ''like a US marine walking past a mugging.'' International rights organisations saw the dismissal as a victory for Thai justice and for media freedom.
AN ENGINE ROOM explosion that led to the burning and sinking of the ferry Ao Nang Princess 5 while sailing between Krabi and Phuket in April killed one tourist, Israeli Shani Maril, 12. Another 117 people from 12 or more countries jumped for their lives and were rescued. With no manifest, authorities scrambled to identify everyone and to organise assistance for passengers. Consuls on Phuket were not informed. Survivors bused to the holiday island could not quickly organise replacement passports. When last reported, ferry owners were still wrangling with an insurance company that had refused to compensate passengers for the loss of all their belongings.
THE HAZE from Indonesian plantation fires that covered large tracts of the region for weeks on end forced the cancellation of flights and proved how foolish it is for the nations of Asean to argue that matters that cause pollution in the shared air are ''internal affairs.'' The haze has been an annual event for years but the 2015 version was worse than any for at least a decade. The fact that Indonesia's neighbors have never been able to make the populous and powerful nation cease its careless behavior is proof that for Asean to mature into a real ''Community,'' needless harm done to the health of neighbors' citizens and economies must be considered.
THE YEAR'S most revealing piece of amateur mobile telephone footage showed bouncers laying into two young Australian tourists among a group that had been expelled from a Patong nightclub. The vicious kicks and elbows to the head alarmed everyone who saw them on news outlets around the world. The victims headed for home and insisted from a distance that vouchers for discount booze had been the cause of the blue. Managers at Patong venues have since agreed to call police rather than allow staff to take the law into their own hands.
THE SCANDAL of developers who defaulted on repaying the off-the-plan buyers who invested in a Patong condo block was topped by a BBC investigation into the way two British men, Ian Rance and Colin Vard, had been systematically ripped off by wives, lawyers and local authorities. These were by no means the first property scandals on Phuket or in Thailand. Phuketwan called for a full investigation with safeguards to be written into Thai law and Phuket's Governor said he would set up a help centre so that pitfalls could be explained before purchase. Many others invest without problems.
WITH DESTRUCTION due at any moment, Thai and expat residents rallied against a plan to build a ''Hollywood movie museum'' by lopping a glade of trees on the foreshore at Phuket's delightful Nai Harn beach. To their credit, local authorities accepted the overwhelming verdict of a local meeting and opted to try to find some other place on Phuket for the movie museum. Sadly, the year's other controversial tourist attraction, a dolphinarium, could not be stopped. A number of dolphins and seals were flown onto the island despite mounting objections around the world to theme parks where intelligent, wild animals are confined in captivity.
We'll be dealing with other issues between now and December 31. Which was the year's biggest story for you? Tell us in the comment box below.