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Koh Tao, Gulf of Thailand: The naked bodies of two British tourists have been found on a Thai beach, sparking a murder probe on the popular resort island of Koh Tao.

The pair had attended a beach party with drinks and fire dancers on this resort island 250 kilometres south of Bangkok before they were hacked to death with a hoe.

“It was a great party, it’s normally what they’ve had every night…it’s a bit more relaxed than compared to Koh Samui,” said Lisa Hartley, a British-born tourist who lives in Melbourne, who attended the party.

bodies of two British tourists found murdered on a Thai beach image www.crimefiles.net

Thai officers work near the bodies of two British tourists found murdered on a Thai beach. 

Police say the near-naked bodies of 23 year-old Hannah Victoria Witheridge from Norfolk in the UK and 24 year-old David William Miller from Jersey were discovered shortly after dawn on Monday at a quiet end of Sai Ree beach on Koh Tao, one of Thailand’s most popular diving destinations.

A bloodied hoe was discovered 35 metres from the bodies.

“It happened right there,” Ms Hartley said, pointing to a sandy spot hidden by rocks beside a small canal.

Killed British tourist Hannah Witheridge image www.crimefiles.net

Killed: British tourist Hannah Witheridge. Photo: Facebook

On Monday night, broken strands of orange police tape draped in the sand off coconut trees marked the death scene.

There was little to light the alcove hidden behind rocks.

Police Major-General Kiattipong Khawsamang told reporters the man was hit with the hoe on the side of the head while the woman was hit in the face.

“It’s very gruesome,” he said.

Forensic tests will be carried out to establish if either was sexually assaulted.

Police said Mr Miller and Ms Witheridge were staying at the same hotel but had travelled separately to Koh Tao.

Ms Witheridge arrived on the island with three other friends on August 25.

Closed circuit television footage showed the pair left a bar together about 1am.

“We don’t know who the suspect might be but we have talked to different witnesses who might lead us to some clues,” Major-General Kiattipong said.

About 50 people attended the beach party while about 2,000 people live on the island that survives on tourism.

Check-points have been set-up across the island which is a quieter destination than the neighbouring Koh Phangan which is famous for its “full moon” beach rave parties where drug taking, alcohol abuse and violence is rife and criminals often target young foreign tourists.

Ms Hartley, who is staying in an apartment directly next to the murder scene, said the first she and her travelling partner Tammy Maskill, also from Melbourne, knew of what had happened was when they woke up to see the body bags and blood on the sand.

“Everyone is sleeping in the same room tonight,” she told Fairfax Media, adding the killings had shaken visitors on the island.

“We’ve had an amazing stay here. We were so grateful to have a beautiful beach next to us, and the people have been so nice,” Ms Hartley said.

Ms Maskill said her friends had spent much of the day in their rooms and had called their families to let them know they were OK.

“It’s a little bit more sombre today. We didn’t want to go down to the beach,” she said.

The crime scene is at the end of a row of beach bars, dive shops, massage parlours and open-air restaurants that cater to the backpacker and scuba diving crowd.

On Monday night, couples still wandered hand-in-hand down the yellow brick road, as it’s known locally.

Divers gathered in shops to debrief about their day and watch videos, while backpackers sank Tiger beers in the bars.

But the island is awash with talk about the deaths and locals are upset about a host of rumours swirling around on the internet, including an incorrect one that all ferries and boats from the island had been cancelled.

The night before Sai Ree beach was an oasis.

Fairy lights wound around coconut trees cast a soft light over the sand. People relaxed quietly on bean bags, a drink in hand, and watched the sun set over the water.

Long boats dropped anchor after a day at one of the island’s many dive sights, and scuba divers waded to the shore carrying boxes of equipment with them. One man cast a silhouette on the water as he tinkered with the motor of his boat, his back to the setting sun.

Ms Maskill said she did not think it would affect tourism on the island, which is also known as Turtle Island.

“It could happen anywhere, it’s just that it’s a small island.”

The attack came amid attempts by Thailand’s military dominated government to revive the country’s tourism industry after a coup in May.

Martial law banning gatherings of more than five people remains in place across the country.

– with Lindsay Murdoch, Bangkok

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Transsexual prostitutes works the streets in thailand image www.crimefiles.net

Transsexual prostitutes works the streets. Source: ThinkStock

THAILAND’S new ruling junta doesn’t like the way the country is portrayed in the movies as a haven for drugs, thugs, lawlessness and ladies of the night.

It’s not that the movies are entirely wrong. But the junta chief says Thailand should be ashamed of its image, and has embarked on a clean-up campaign.

Since staging a coup on May 22, the military has led a crackdown on crime as part of what army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha describes as a morality cleansing. Before democracy can be restored, he says, corruption and lawlessness have to stop.

Prayuth has repeatedly talked about returning the Buddhist country to a place of moral standing where people respect the law — including the politicians, police and other authorities who readily take payments to ignore crime.

Kicking out corrupt politicians was part of Prayuth’s justification for overthrowing an elected government and suspending a range of democratic freedoms.

“Foreign tourists should not have a perception that they can come to Thailand to commit illegal activities as often portrayed in the movies,” he said in one of his weekly televised speeches. “I am ashamed. Do you not feel the same when this is portrayed in foreign films?”

“We have to change this perception.”

Whether or not the crackdown has lasting effects, it has shined a light on Thailand’s underworld and highlighted just how far-reaching lawlessness here really is.

Airport taxi mafia

The junta this week vowed to banish mafia-style gangs that control the taxis at Bangkok’s main international airport. In news to many travellers who had no clue about the racket, the junta announced that extortion gangs manage the taxi queues at Suvarnabhumi International Airport and screen passengers for drivers who prefer travelling longer distances. Maj. Gen. Nirandon Samutsakhon, who heads a new task force to eliminate the gangs, told the Bangkok Post that “men in uniform” were allegedly implicated.

He vowed results within a month, including a new computerised registration system that will require drivers to sign in and accept all passengers regardless of their destination. Nirandon said the overhaul was a priority because airport taxis are the “front door to the tourism industry” and the junta wants to end frequent problems of passengers being denied rides, overcharged or left stranded.

A similar crackdown is underway in the resort island of Phuket, where hundreds of people including drivers and senior local officials have been arrested.

Tourists walk to taxi counters at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok image www.crimefiles.net

 

Tourists walk to taxi counters at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Source: AP

OOO

‘Ladyboy’ gangs

So far, there’s no sign of targeting straightforward prostitution and the many go-go bars that bring in heaps of cash for Thailand’s tourist towns. But, police working with the navy in the seaside town of Pattaya have turned to the longstanding problem of criminal ladyboys, as transvestites are known in Thailand.

On Thursday alone, police rounded up 50 ladyboys that offer sexual services to foreigners and then rob them, said Pattaya police Lt. Col. Phairot Petchploy. “They pretend to be embracing or touching the foreign tourists and then steal their phones or wallets,” he said. To address the problem, he said, police are sending plainclothes officers out cruising with tourists to bait and catch the criminals.

Weapons seizures

Since the coup, the army has publicised the discovery of arms caches to justify its intervention. Last week, the junta chief said soldiers had seized 88 war weapons, more than 1,200 illegal guns, more than 7,000 bullets and 300 grenades and explosives.

Not all were connected to politics. Prayuth said some of the weapons belonged to illegal businesses.

The army’s main reason for staging the coup was to restore order after seven months of protests that triggered sporadic violence that left at least 28 people dead. More than 800 people were wounded in grenade attacks, gunfights and drive-by shootings

Thai police officers examine war weapons they seized from a raid image www.crimefiles.net

Bad monks hotline

The National Office of Buddhism set up a 24-hour hotline Friday to accept complaints about misbehaving monks. The idea for the hotline emerged after Prayuth instructed the office to curb bad behaviour among monks and protect the image of Buddhism in the predominantly Buddhist country of 67 million people.

The move follows a number of high-profile scandals in recent years, including a case last month of five defrocked abbots charged with sexually abusing boys. Last year, a disgraced monk was fired after a video on YouTube went viral showing him in aviator sunglasses on a private jet ride with a Louis Vuitton carry-on.

An investigation found the monk, who fled the country and was never arrested, had amassed millions of dollars in assets by deceiving people into giving him donations. He was also accused of fathering a child by an underage girl a decade earlier. The National Office of Buddhism says it plans to propose legislation that would codify the punishments for wayward monks.

Drug-dealing inmates

The National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta refers to itself, is ordering prisons to get tough on drug dealers. The military has compiled a list of inmates suspected of peddling drugs via phone from inside prisons, assistant army chief Gen. Paibul Khumchaya told the Bangkok Post.

The army has given prisons a one-month deadline to stop traffickers from operating on the inside. It has also asked banks to monitor suspicious accounts held by inmates suspected of laundering money acquired from drugs and illegal gambling.

Originally published as Thailand’s underworld: Drugs, thugs and ladyboys

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