Two Australian men, reported to have alleged links with an outlaw motorcycle gang, have been charged with attempted murder in Phuket over the accidental shooting of two German tourists on the popular holiday island.
Thai police allege John Edward Cohen, 33, and Adam Lewis Shea, 26, were attempting to shoot an alleged Danish member of the local mafia when stray bullets struck two German tourists who were standing out the front of a food mart in Patong.
The Australian men, who police say are joint owners of a tattoo parlour in Patong, were allegedly involved in a dispute with the Danish man, named by police as Dannie, over a motorcycle, when the disagreement became violent near the Baan Pirin Hotel about 7.30pm on Tuesday.
Deputy Commander Arun Kleawwatee, of the Phuket Provincial Police, told the Phuket Gazette that the Australians were allegedly chasing Dannie when one of them opened fire with a .38 handgun.
‘‘However, they missed Dannie and hit two German tourists [in front of the Family Mart],” he said.
Thai police are investigating whether Cohen, from NSW, and Shea, from Tasmania, have links to the Bandidos motorcycle gang, said to be expanding from Australia to Phuket.
However, Phuket news website Phuket Wan said the motorcycle club involved was the Rebels.
The injured tourists - Johann Baschenegger, 42, and Joseph Woerner, 71 - were both shot in the arm and were taken to Patong Hospital.
Mr Baschenegger had been in Phuket for less than a day when he was shot.
Deputy Commander Kleawwatee claimed the Australians were attempting to ‘‘strike first’’ when they accidentally shot the tourists.
“This is not a complicated case at all,” he told the Phuket Gazette.
“The suspects, afraid they would be attacked by a party that they were in conflict with, decided to strike first.
“We quickly arrested the suspects at the tattoo shop they are partners in on Bangla Road.’’
He said CCTV footage showed Cohen, who allegedly fired the shot, and Shea walking into a number of hotels along the street and asking for Dannie.
They then spotted him leaving one hotel on a motorbike and began chasing him, Deputy Commander Kleawwatee said.
“Both of them ran out of the hotel, and one of them opened fire with [a] .38 handgun,” he said.
He said the Australians and Dannie were due to appear in court on Tuesday to resolve a dispute about a ‘‘big bike’’ worth about 300,000 baht ($9500), but Dannie did not show up to the court hearing.
During police questioning, Cohen allegedly told police that Dannie had sent a group of mafia men to his Phuket home, Deputy Commander Kleawwatee told the Phuket Gazette.
“I was afraid he would shoot me since he did not show up at court. So me and my friend decided to make a move first,” Cohen told police, according to Deputy Commander Kleawwatee.
Cohen and Shea have been charged with attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm.
Police are still searching for Dannie.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson confirmed on Thursday that a 33-year-old man from NSW and a 26-year-old man from Tasmania had been arrested in connection with the shooting.
"Australian consular officials in Thailand are providing assistance to the men," the spokesperson said.