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Man held over Thai tourist death

Police in Thailand have arrested a man after a British tourist was shot dead at a New Year's Eve party after getting caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between rival gangs.

Stephen Ashton, 22, is said to have been killed by a stray bullet as he danced with friends at a beach bar on the paradise island of Koh Phangan.

Police Colonel Kittakarn Kramomthong, chief of police at the island's station, said officers had arrested a 26-year-old Thai man and confiscated a gun. The man is expected to be charged with manslaughter, he said.

It was reported that Mr Ashton's family had travelled to Thailand and were on the way to Ko Phangan to formally identify his body and make arrangements for his repatriation.

Thai police said Mr Ashton was with a group of friends and 300 other tourists celebrating the countdown to 2013 at a pub and restaurant called the Zoom Bar when he was shot by a home-made gun at Haad Rin beach shortly after 4am yesterday.

The Bangkok Post said he was visiting the island with four or five friends and was staying at Pink Bungalow on Haad Rin.

Confirming the identity of the victim, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the death of a British national in Thailand on New Year's Eve and we are providing consular assistance to the family."

Mr Ashton's family said they were too distraught to speak at their home on Tuesday night.

The tropical island of Koh Phangan, situated north of tourist haven Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, is a popular destination for backpackers and students on gap years.

One of the attractions of the island is its monthly full moon party at Haad Rin Beach, and many people know it as the setting for Alex Garland's novel The Beach, which was made into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

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