6 given death sentence for Thai family massacre

Bangkok - Six men were sentenced to death on Wednesday for the massacre of a Thai village headman and seven members of his family, including three children, over a land dispute.

The execution-style murders, which caused widespread public horror, saw the masked gunmen storm into the local leader's compound in the southern province of Krabi in July 2017 and take his family hostage with handcuffs and blindfolds.

They held the group for several hours while waiting for village chief Worayuth Sanlang to return. Then they shot him in the head along with seven family members.

Three others were injured but survived, including a woman who played dead after a bullet passed through her ear.

The court said the massacre was motivated by a land dispute between the village headman and the lead gunman, Surikfat Bannopwongsakul.

"The six defendants used pistols to shoot all the eight victims, which included women as well as girls aged four, eight, eleven, devastating the public," said the verdict read out at Krabi's provincial court on Wednesday.

While death sentences are still on the statute books in Thailand, no prisoner has been executed since 2009.

Gun murders are common in Thailand, a country where firearms are widely available. Killings are often motivated by revenge, "loss of face" and business disputes.

But while petty arguments and disputes frequently turn deadly, mass killings are rare.

A survivor of the massacre and relative of the victims, Anchalee Booterb, welcomed the sentences.

"Yes I am satisfied, but even if they are executed it will not bring my relatives back" she told broadcaster Channel 9.