One of three Burmese nationals detained for questioning in connection with the murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao in Surat Thani has confessed to committing the murders, Thailand’s deputy national police chief Chakthip Chaichinda says.
Police were waiting for results of DNA tests on the three suspects, he told the Bangkok Post in a telephone interview.
National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang reportedly flew to Koh Tao on 2 October. A formal press briefing is expected once the DNA test results on the three are obtained.
Pol Gen Chakthip said the three were detained after a police investigation into the murders of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24. Police inspected video footage from security cameras on Koh Tao and became suspicious of their activities.
One of the three suspects identified only as Cho, who was about 25 to 27 years old, was detained at the main wharf of Nakhon Surat Thani Municipality at 6am on Thursday after he left Koh Tao on a ferry at 9pm on Wednesday.
The man was taken to Provincial Police Region 8 investigation centre where he was questioned for five hours. Members of the press were barred from approaching the investigation centre and prohibited from taking pictures.
Police officers also refused to talk to reporters until Pol Lt Gen Decha Butrnamphech, commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 8, emerged from the investigation centre at 3pm to say the case was expected to be solved soon. “I’m very satisfied with the investigation,” he said.
A source said Cho admitted he been captured on a surveillance camera but insisted he had nothing to do with the murder of the two Britons.
Police then collected DNA samples from Cho and sent them for testing, the source said.
Cho was being detained by the police on Thursday on illegal entry charges.
The source did not clarify whether or not Cho was the man of Asian appearance caught on a security camera at the AC Bar near the crime scene on the night of the murder.
Another informed source, meanwhile, said police on 30 September began paying special attention to 10 people of interest after discovering one of them was captured on a security camera at a convenience store on Sairee beach while buying a packet of L&M cigarettes.
The man was recorded on the camera at 11.12pm on 14 September.
DNA samples taken from cigarette butts of the same L&M brand, which were found near the crime scene, matched those extracted from semen retrieved from Witheridge, the same source said.
The police previously learned from a number of staff at a resort near the crime scene that a group of three Burmese nationals, who were believed to be close friends, liked to hang around together playing guitars on the beach, the source said.
Two of the three Burmese men were identified as employees of a restaurant near the crime scene while one was confirmed to be Cho who hurriedly left Koh Tao shortly after he was released after being questioned earlier by police, the source said.
At 9pm on Wednesday, a police investigation team, detained the other two Burmese nationals and took them to a safe house on the island.
No further information about the questioning of the two has been obtained.
Meanwhile, British ambassador to Thailand Mark Kent met with Pol Gen Somyot on Thursday morning at the Royal Thai Police Office in Bangkok.
During his visit, Mr Kent asked Pol Gen Somyot about the progress of the investigation into the Koh Tao murders.
Pol Gen Somyot told Mr Kent he could not confirm when the suspects would be charged but assured him Thai police were painstakingly compiling evidence to ensure the case would not be rejected in court later due to insufficient evidence.
Mr Kent offered to have British specialists work with Thai officers in inspecting the security cameras to find more clues about the suspects, Pol Gen Somyot said.
He said the UK was not asking to jointly investigate the murder, nor was it attempting to interfere with the Thai police investigation.
The UK only had offered to help do what was possible at the request of Thai police, Pol Gen Somyot said.
I’ve expressed my sincerity by extending an invitation for the British ambassador and some British police to observe the murder investigation on Koh Tao, which he agreed to,” Pol Gen Somyot said.
Pol Maj Gen Kiattipong Khawsamang, former Surat Thani police chief, who is one of the investigators, yesterday denied telling foreign media two workers from Burma had confessed to the murders.
This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 3 October 2014.