THAILAND - A taxi driver on Koh Tao off the Surat Thani coast yesterday went public with his accusation that police investigating the murders of two British tourists had tried to intimidate him into providing false testimony.
In a media interview yesterday, Prasit Sukdam also accused the police of giving him a large sum of money in exchange for false testimony to frame the wrong people. He claimed the money was taken from the Bt700,000 offered as a reward by Koh Tao residents for information leading to the arrest of the killers.
Separately, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha dismissed reports that tourists will be encouraged to wear wristbands or register electronically upon arrival in addition to passport verification at the airport. "We can't make them wear any chip-embedded device. We want them to keep visiting Thailand," he added.
Meanwhile, Prasit brought the issue up with Assawin sae-Phoo, head of local taxi drivers on the tourist island, citing "fear for his life after turning down the offer". Assawin later took Prasit's complaint to Korbchai Saowalak, the kamnan of tambon Koh Tao.
Korbchai then spoke publicly to the police, calling on them to not work on the case in an aggressive manner and not find scapegoats. "Don't harm innocent people or frighten them," he said.
Speaking later to reporters, Prasit said: "I don't want to take any action against the policemen, but want to demonstrate my innocence and I will cooperate with other requests in the future. Just don't force me to acknowledge [something] I never knew [about]," he said.
Prasit admitted to celebrating with a football team after a match at an unnamed pub on the night of the murders, but said he knew nothing about the team members' activities or police suspicions about them.
He said some policemen approached him at 1.30pm on Monday trying to convince him to cooperate and let him go five hours later.
Meanwhile, assistant national police chief Lt-General Jakthip Chaijinda has been instructed to supervise the investigation, taking over from Police Region 8 commander Lt-General Panya Manen who has been promoted to assistant national police chief. Officials said different police units should work together on the probe.
The Police Region 8 chief's post has been filled by Lt-General Decha Butrnamphet, who said later that the same set of investigators would continue working on the case.