POSTED: 6:30 p.m. HST, Aug 2, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 2:44 p.m. HST, Aug 3, 2013
BANGKOK >> A bar musician accused of stabbing an American tourist to death in southern Thailand has been released on bail, police said Friday.
Police Col. Boontawee Toraksa said three band members at a bar in the southern resort town of Ao Nang were arrested after the attack early Wednesday on Bobby Ray Carter Jr., 51, a Texas resident. He said they were charged with causing death by physical attack, punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment.
Boontawee said a court granted bail Thursday to the man who allegedly stabbed Carter, Ratikorn Romin, 27, over police objections, while his band mates were ordered held.
Police said Carter argued with the musicians in the bar where they had been playing and was stabbed with an iron rod during a confrontation when they went outside.
The dead man's son, Adam Carter, 27, was wounded in the arm and was treated at a hospital and released.
A woman who described herself as Carter's cousin, Kiki Bower of Dallas, Texas, said that according to Carter's wife Kelly, who was present during the incident, Carter had not provoked the violence.
Police said Carter's wife and son were to be interviewed Friday, but details of their testimony were not available. They did not respond to repeated requests for interviews, and Bower said they were too distraught to talk to reporters.
Police said Thursday that according to their preliminary investigation, Carter was drunk, began singing with the band and refused to leave the stage to let other customers sing.
"Witnesses said Carter got angry when the band played 'Hotel California' instead of the song he requested, and he refused to step down," police chief Col. Taksin Pochakorn said. He said the band then stopped playing and Carter and his son got into an argument with the musicians.
"We appreciate the swift action by the Thai police to capture the three men who took Bobby's life and are calling on the Thai justice system to hold these criminals accountable to the fullest extent of the law for this senseless loss of life," Bower said in an email.
More than 22 million foreigners visited Thailand last year. Most tourists encounter no serious problems, but several high-profile deaths and other incidents have prompted calls for greater safety.
In June, a group of European ambassadors visited the tourist island of Phuket to urge officials to do more to ensure foreigners are safe.
Wiyada Srirangkul, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Krabi provincial office, expressed regret over Carter's death and said it "definitely gives a negative image to the province's tourism."
"Fatal incidents like this are rare, since Krabi usually attracts foreign tourists who come in families or travelers who seek tranquility," she said, adding that there aren't many clusters of bars except in Ao Nong where the killing occurred. She said Krabi had 2.9 million visitors last year.
"The authorities are trying to speed up the case and make sure justice is given to every side," Wiyada said. "Police will also need to make sure incidents like this do not happen again."
National Tourism Police chief Maj. Gen. Roy Inkabhairoj said authorities "have taken all necessary measures to provide safety to foreign tourists, but this kind of situation is sometimes beyond our control."
"It was a quarrel between the dead man and the suspects. This is something that's hard for us to prevent," he said. "What we could do once it happened was to catch the suspects, and we did that quickly right at the bar."