– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: Medical teams from four institutes yesterday joined the process to conduct DNA tests on a 22-year-old man whom many Thai social-media users alleged is a suspect in the murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao.
Warot Tuwichien yesterday showed up at the National Police Office (NPO) to allow the teams to collect his DNA samples in front of the media.
The murders of the two Britons on Koh Tao, a tourist island off Surat Thani province, in mid-September has made headlines both locally and internationally. The investigation into the murders has received huge media coverage and close attention from the public, including social-media users.
National Police Commissioner Somyot Poompanmoung yesterday said he had invited medical teams from the Police General Hospital’s Institute of Forensic Medicine, Chulalongkorn Hospital, Siriraj Hospital and Ramathibodi Hospital to conduct the DNA tests on Warot so as to boost public confidence in the police handling of the case.
“The results from the DNA tests will come out within the next one or two days,” he told a press conference.
Somyot lamented that misleading information on social networks had adversely affected Thai society, its image and the country’s tourism industry.
Word spread on social media that Warot – son of a headman on Koh Tao – should be treated as a person of interest in the killings of the Britons, despite police ruling him out as a suspect.
Warot’s father Woraphan Tuwichien is the village head of Moo 1 of Tambon Koh Tao and the owner of a bar on the island.
Police arranged for the DNA test on Warot but have made clear that the results will not be part of their official investigation report on the murder case. Somyot said the report had already reached public prosecutors and police could not add anything to it unless instructed by the prosecutors.
“Police initially did not interrogate or require Warot to undergo DNA testing because he offered proof he was not on Koh Tao at the time the crimes took place,” Somyot explained.
The DNA tests are being conducted in public to clear up any lingering doubts, after two Myanmar workers arrested for the crimes said they were tortured into confessing.
Both Myanmar and Britain have sent officials to observe the case, because of their citizens’ involvement.
Somyot warned social-media users to think twice before making claims about the case on the Internet.
“This sharing can affect the society. It can cause social division and hurt Thailand’s and Koh Tao’s tourism economy,” he said, adding that sharing false information on the Internet was an offence under the Computer Crimes Act.
“It’s punishable by up to five years in jail, a maximum fine of Bt100,000, or both,” he said.
Speaking at the same press conference, Woraphan said he was consulting lawyers as to whether to sue Internet users who had defamed his son and his family.
“I have been monitoring social media outlets,” he said. He said he brought his son to be DNA tested with the aim of proving Warot’s innocence.
Warot, meanwhile, said he did not understand why so many people would believe in stories shared by strangers on the Internet.
Dr Smith Srisonthi of Ramathibodi Hospital said his team collected DNA samples from both Warot’s cheek and blood.
“We will compare his DNA samples with the samples found on the victims as well as those found around the crime scenes,” Smith said.
— Phuket Gazette Editors