Two tourists missing in boat crash near Thai resort: Police

BANGKOK - Two tourists - believed to be from China - were missing late Sunday after their tour boat crashed into a fishing vessel between two Thai resort hubs, local police told AFP, adding several others were "seriously injured".

The speedboat was carrying around 40 passengers - the majority apparently Chinese tourists - from the famous Phi Phi island to Phuket off the southern mainland when the crash occurred around dusk.

"Eight passengers were seriously injured with two missing. We don't know what has happened to them yet," Police Colonel Chanucharn Chonsuwat of Phang Nga province told AFP late Sunday.

"All of the 37 on board were Chinese tourists," he said, adding the cause of the crash was as yet unknown.

A conflicting report from China's official news agency Xinhua said the two missing tourists were from South Korea, while 14 Chinese passengers suffered "slight injuries".

Accidents involving boats, buses and other forms of public transport are common in Thailand, where safety standards are generally poor.

Sunday's accident will do little to improve Thailand's reputation as a tourist haven, which has been buffeted in recent months.

Prolonged and often-violent protests in Bangkok resulted in a coup on May 22 and the introduction of martial law -- which is yet to be revoked.

The murder of two British holidaymakers on the southern resort island of Koh Tao in mid-September has also raised serious fears over tourist safety.

Thai authorities have come under intense criticism for their handling of the murder probe.

In November last year six people died - half of them foreigners - when an overcrowded tourist ferry suddenly sunk near Pattaya, a beach resort two hours south of Bangkok.