BANGKOK – Thailand’s most senior police official has insisted his country is safe for tourists despite the police’s failure to catch or even identify the killers of British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge.
“It is safe. I’m sure it is safe,” Police General Somyot Poompanmoung, the Royal Thai Police Commissioner, told reporters during a brief visit to Koh Tao island where the Britons’ bodies were found last Monday.
However, nearly one week after the tourists were killed the police chief admitted he still had no clear picture of what happened to them in the hours before their deaths. “We have to wait.”
On Saturday police announced that DNA tests on two distinct semen samples collected from Ms Witheridge’s body were both from Asian men.
Asked if police were close to catch the killers he said: “I hope so.”
Police now believe that a gang of at least three “attackers”, two of whom are Asian, was responsible for the killings.
Atichai Ti-amart, a tourist police chief, said investigators were also now searching for a “foreign” woman who was seen near the crime scene on Koh Tao island’s Sairee beach in the early hours of Monday.
On Wednesday, police indicated an arrest was imminent and pointed the finger at a British friend of Mr Miller.
However, that man was cleared by DNA test and has now returned to the UK. With no clear suspects police have been taking apparently random DNA samples from mostly Burmese men who live and work around Sairee beach. Many expat residents have complained that Burmese men appear to have been targeted more than Thai citizens.
One of the few forensic clues police appear to have is a cigarette butt that was collected from the crime scene and found to contain two different sets of DNA.
The handling of the murders represents a major embarrassment to the Thai police chief, who only assumed his position last month.
Investigators have faced criticism for failing to properly secure the crime scene and surrounding area and apparently only conducting major forensic work more than 48 hours after the bodies were found.
Police General Somyot Poompanmoung said he would “try to solve the case as soon as possible”.
Images showing Mr Miller walking near the Thai beach where he and Ms Witheridge were murdered just hours later emerged on Friday.
The CCTV images show the 24-year-old University of Leeds graduate walking north along the street that runs behind Sairee beach on Koh Tao island at 1.27am last Monday.
A second set of images, taken around 30 minutes later, at 1.56am, show Mr Miller returning down the same street in the company of a man and a woman whose identities are not known.
The badly disfigured bodies of Mr Miller, 24, and Ms Witheridge, 23, were found on Koh Tao’s Sairee beach in the early hours of last Monday. The pair had met on the island and had been staying in the same hotel. – By Tom Phillips, Koh Tao, Thailand