Tourism minister to visit Koh Tao in bid to revive confidence

Thai Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul.

THAILAND - Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul is scheduled to travel to Koh Tao today in the wake of the brutal murders of two British tourists on the resort island earlier this month, in a move that aims to assure visitors that sufficient security measures are in place.

Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatphuti said that Kobkarn would hold discussions with state officials and private business operators on Koh Tao to hear their opinions about the island's crime problem and possible solutions, the National News Bureau of Thailand reported yesterday.

The visit is expected to bring about more effective preventive measures against crime following the backpacker deaths, which has put Thai tourism in a bad light in the eyes of foreigners.

The governor said he would request a budget for the installation of additional security cameras and streetlights on the island, as part of increased security measures.

Chatpong said that money would also be spent on a campaign to refresh the image of Koh Tao in preparation for the upcoming high season late this year.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai yesterday urged Thais to be good hosts to foreign tourists by helping to ensure their safety.

Don said that Thais should do this by acting as tourists' eyes and ears.

He admitted that the backpacker murders shook the confidence many foreigners had in Thailand as a tourist destination. If tourists are well cared for, they will return home and recommend the Kingdom to others.

In a related development, Pol Lt-General Panya Mamen, chief of the Police Region 8 command, said much progress had been made in the investigation into the murders and police would move swiftly to make arrests when enough evidence had been gathered.

Panya, whose command has jurisdiction over Koh Tao, which is located off Surat Thani, insisted that police already had the names of the suspects.

He vowed that police would not let the public down.

Investigators were zeroing in on two to three issues related to the murder and 355 CCTV images were being closely examined, with the results expected later yesterday.

Panya said that investigators were also looking at every person who was within 600m of the crime scene between 2am and 4am on the night of the murders and police would interrogate anyone found have been in that radius.

"There're no influential people involved in the case and I don't feel pressure in handling the case," Panya said.

"The case is not complicated. Police are doing their best, both in terms of looking for witnesses and evidence and will find the culprit(s)."