Koh Tao murders: UK cops 'to only observe'

Koh Tao murders: UK cops 'to only observe'
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha makes a point while talking to reporters at Suvarnabhumi Airport following his return from Italy yesterday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has reiterated that British observers will be permitted in the police investigation into the Koh Tao murders, disputing foreign media reports from London that stated British police were "allowed to help" with the probe.

General Prayut said yesterday that British Prime Minister David Cameron had spoken to him at the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) that concluded in Milan on Friday about the recent murders of the two Britons on the resort island.

Prayut said Cameron told him that he saw nothing wrong with the Thai justice system, but that many Britons had suspicions about the police investigation.

"I told him that there is no problem with this case because we follow the law. We agreed that England will send in observers," he said, adding that the British Embassy and Thai police and the Foreign Ministry were working together on this matter.

Prayut was speaking during his press conference at Suvarnabhumi Airport following his return from Italy. Asem attracted leaders of many Asian and European nations.

He also told reporters that Cameron expected the British public to "take some more time to understand this matter".

The prime minister also rejected claims that the police had arrested scapegoats for the murders.

He said he did not think the police would dare do such a thing in a high-profile case like this.

Two workers from Myanmar have been arrested and police said they admitted to the crime.

The BBC reported earlier yesterday that British police would travel to Thailand to assist with the murder investigation.

It reported that Prayut, who had previously objected to inviting British investigators, changed his stance after meeting with Cameron in Italy on Friday.

"There are two areas we are particularly concerned about," the BBC quoted a diplomatic source as saying. "One is the verification of the DNA samples of the suspects ... the second is the investigation into allegations of the mistreatment of the suspects."

The Myanmar suspects said they were forced to confess to the September 15 murders of backpackers Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24. But the police said the confessions were valid and denied reports of a retraction.

"What the [British] prime minister secured this morning was an agreement from the Thai prime minister that we can send some British police investigators to Koh Tao to work with the Royal Thai Police on this," a British diplomatic source said.

The source stressed that "obviously it is for the Thai authorities to lead and carry out that judicial process", but said it was important that it was "fair and transparent".

Britain summoned Thailand's top diplomat in London on Monday to lay out its "real concern" about the handling of the case and offered its support, while the British envoy in Bangkok also met top Thai officials to discuss the case.

In London on Friday, a group of campaigners handed a petition with more than 100,000 signatures calling for the UK prime minister to launch an independent investigation into the murders.

The petition was submitted at Cameron's office at Number 10 Downing Street.

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