Thaksin “Sin” Monthonthaksin was one of the founders of the outlaw motorcycle club’s Pattaya branch a year ago. But now he is worried about the direction it is taking.
“It’s changed so much because there are many Australians, whose roles and power has been increasing,” Mr Thaksin told the ABC.
Charity rides and oversized cheques are being replaced with what he describes as “dark business”.
This struggle for power within the club came to a violent climax earlier this month.
Nobody denies there was a fight – one that left Mr Thaksin with seven stitches and a left eye swollen shut.
But there are two quite different versions of what caused the clash and whether it adhered to the Angels’ code of “fight club” ethics.
According to Sin, he wanted to introduce a new prospective Thai member to the Pattaya branch.
As the club’s sergeant-at-arms, he thought he had that right, but says the move was blocked by Australian members.
Then things got nasty…
Expletive-strewn messages were sent, and in an insult considered profoundly offensive in Thai culture, Mr Thaksin sent a photo of his foot, singling out Australian Glen Norris, saying “For you bro”.
A fellow Thai member and relative convinced Mr Thaksin to go to the clubhouse — a bar called Angels Place — and talk things over.
“I trusted my relative, but when I got there they beat me right away … without saying a word,” Mr Thaksin told the ABC.
He says three Australians — Glen Norris, Dan Stalley and Matthew “Tab” Robinson— all joined the assault, breaking the code of one-on-one fights only.
The Hells Angels version came to the ABC via an emailed statement on behalf of “Thai members of the club who wish to remain anonymous”.
“Both Thai and foreign members unanimously voted the now ex-sergeant-at-arms out of the club following numerous infractions of the rules — a decision the biker wasn’t willing to accept,” the statement said.
It said the fight was caused by Mr Thaksin’s threatening behaviour.
“After the ex-sergeant-at-arms was voted out he arrived at a members’ meeting carrying a baseball bat making threats to those attending and calling out several Australian members of the chapter.”
This led to the fight at the clubhouse with “an Australian member who lives in Bangkok” named Glen Norris.
“THE FIGHT WAS A ONE-ON-ONE, FISTS ONLY AND WITNESSED BY OVER 20 BOTH THAI AND FOREIGN PEOPLE, WHO SAW THE EX-SERGEANT-AT-ARMS TAKE A FAIR BEATING AND FELT THE MATTER WAS NOW CLOSED,” THE STATEMENT SAID.
Mr Thaksin has filed a complaint to police, something the club says goes against much of what the Hells Angels stand for.
“We are waiting for a medical report from a doctor, so we can charge Glen,” Inspector Theetat Truchan of the Nong Preu police said.
The ABC understands Angels Place has at least 10 security cameras installed but bar staff told police they were out of order on the day of the assault.
Thailand a key location in drug ‘superhighway’
While there are dozens of bike enthusiast groups in Thailand, it’s the outlaw motorcycle clubs that interest police.
South-East Asia is home to some of the big names — Rebels, Mongols, Bandidos, Outlaws.
Sex, sun and leather
It makes sense that the Hells Angels’ only official Thai charter is in Pattaya rather than the capital Bangkok.
The seaside city is renowned for its go-go bars, drugs and as a place for criminals to lay low.
A British tabloid recently claimed Pattaya was the “sex capital” of the world, a “modern day Sodom and Gomorrah” with 27,000 prostitutes.
The Tourism Minister professed alarm and sent the police to investigate but they claimed — unconvincingly — they could not find any signs of transactional sex going on.
Since 2012, Thailand has hosted Hells Angels nomads — members not affiliated with any particular regional chapter, or charter as the Hells Angels call them.
But in April last year, the Pattaya charter revved into life, with Thaksin Monthonthaksin and Australian Wayne Schneider among the founding members.
Now the club has 14 fully-patched members — five Australians, four Germans, a Canadian and four Thais.
Mr Thaksin told the ABC he was never made aware of specific drug deals but said the Hells Angels were increasingly focused on “things that are illegal”.
Geographically, Thailand links the main drug-producing regions of Myanmar and Laos with lucrative markets like Malaysia and Australia.
“It’s a picture of a superhighway,” said Police Lieutenant General Sommai Kongwisaisuk, head of the Narcotic Suppression Bureau.
A separate organisation, Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Board, has told the ABC it is monitoring the Hells Angels as a “well-known crime group” but wouldn’t confirm they are involved in drug trafficking.
Next month, a second Hells Angels charter is due to open in the northern town of Chiang Mai — better known for its proximity to the opium and methamphetamine-producing Golden Triangle than for its big bike culture.
The death of a playboy
When Mr Thaksin sat down to speak to the ABC, he wore a “death-head” shirt given to him by Wayne Schneider, a man he considered a “playboy” who was well liked by Thais.
The authorities had another take, with Australian and Thai police suspecting Schneider of trafficking significant quantities of drugs from Pattaya.
In November, Schneider was abducted from outside his luxury villa by five men, beaten savagely and found buried at remote location known to Pattaya locals as a “killing zone” for the number of murder victims who end up interred there.
Two men have been convicted in relation to the crime.
Schneider’s bodyguard Antonio Bagnato was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and disposing a body.
He was sentenced to death but it is believed he will appeal against the charge.
The court found that American Tyler Gerrard, 22, was also involved in the kidnapping, convicting him on lesser charges that will likely see him released this year.
But the other suspects remain at large.
“AFTER WAYNE DIED, ALL OF THEM [THE AUSTRALIANS] WERE GONE… THEY WERE SO QUIET, THEY DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING AND ACTED LIKE NOTHING HAD HAPPENED,” MR THAKSIN SAID.
‘They’re dangerous … they’ll have to take my life’
The man who helped start the Pattaya charter of the Hells Angels now wants the Australian members deported.
“I would like to ask the Australian Consulate to push these people out, please,” Mr Thaksin said. “THEY’RE DANGEROUS… IF WE IGNORE THEM, THEY CAN CREATE VIOLENT SITUATIONS.”
Further violence may well be looming.
Sin alleges that Norris has threatened to kill him if he doesn’t hand back his leather jacket with its Hells Angels patches.
“[That jacket] is my life… without it I am meaningless,” Mr Thaksin said.
“I CREATED IT — IF ANYONE WANTS TO TAKE IT FROM ME THEY HAVE TO TAKE MY LIFE AS WELL.”