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Four questioned in Horton murder probe

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Four questioned in Horton murder probe | Thaiger

KOH SAMUI (The Nation/Phuket Gazette): Police detained four men last night for questioning as part of their investigation into the murder of Welsh university student Katherine Horton on this popular resort island.

They also took DNA samples from the four, all employees of a resort close to the bungalow where Ms Horton, 21, was staying. Witnesses saw the men dining at a food stall nearby on the night of the murder, police said. No charges had been filed against the four as of last night.

A motorcycle owned by one of the men, whose identities were not immediately released by police, was seen parked outside Katherine’s bungalow at the New Hut resort on the evening of January 1. But the owner said he had earlier rented it to a foreign tourist, investigators said. The man produced a document to support his claim, they added.

Police yesterday questioned the four for several hours after taking them into custody at the Sea View Paradise resort on Lamai Beach. The resort is next to the one where Ms Horton, a third-year psychology student from Cardiff, was spending her New Year’s holiday with friends at the time she was killed.

Investigators took samples from the men for DNA analysis after questioning them yesterday and taking them to Samui Hospital for medical checks last night. They were later brought back to Samui police station for further questioning.

A source at the hospital said DNA sampling was carried out yesterday on seven foreigners and eight Thais, including the four men under detention, as part of the police investigation.

Ms Horton’s body was found on Monday in the sea off Thong Krok Beach, a few kilometers from the resort where she had been staying. Police said she had been hit several times on the head and body with a blunt instrument, before being thrown into the sea to drown.

A primary police investigation showed that Ms Horton was likely attacked while walking on the beach near her bungalow on the evening of January 1.

Ms Horton was talking to her mother, Elizabeth, on her mobile phone when the attack took place, and her mother reportedly heard her scream before the call was cut off.

Police at first said that an initial examination had shown no signs that Ms Horton was raped before she was murdered, but Pol Maj Gen Santhan Chayanont, Deputy Commissioner of Police Region 8, told the Gazette today, “After looking at much of the evidence we have concluded that Ms Horton was raped and murdered. A forensic examination discovered semen in her body.

“DNA samples are being taken from all suspects, and officers from the Police Forensic Science Office in Bangkok are checking these against evidence already found. We expect complete results of this analysis soon. It will be our main route of investigation.”

The results of the tests are expected today or tomorrow, he said.

Investigators also plan to check photographs from an automatic security camera installed near the spot where Ms Horton was believed to have been attacked, a police source said yesterday.

“At a resort nearby, there is a set of sensor-equipped cameras and lights that automatically snap pictures when something moves past at night. We hope to find some leads from the photo records,” the source said.

Police yesterday set up a field command centre on Koh Samui for the murder investigation. More than 100 police personnel from local and Bangkok-based units fanned out across the island in search of leads in the case.

Central Investigation Bureau deputy commissioner Pol Maj Gen Asavin Kwanmuang and Tourist Police commander Maj Gen Panya Mamen held a meeting with investigators to inquire about their progress.

“We have found some leads but cannot publicly discuss the details now. Some witnesses have been questioned and evidence gathered that leads to certain suspects,” Maj Gen Panya said.

“I am a father with daughters too, and so are many other officers who are racing against time to solve the case here with the heart of a father,” said Surat Thani Provincial Police Chief, Pol Maj Gen Voravate Vinitnatyanon.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge

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Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge | Thaiger
PHOTO: Hotels and other tourism business are hoping the July 1st reopening goal can still be achieved.

A hotel information blog is claiming that, despite growing Covid-19 numbers, Phuket should stick to its schedule in reopening to travellers without quarantine in July. That’s only 2 and a half months away.

In an interview with the Director of Travel and Tourism Consulting at GlobalData, they stressed that while it is crucial to rein in the spread of Covid-19 and the B117 strain now menacing Thailand, the risk must not overshadow the need to push forward with vaccinations and the march towards eliminating the quarantine by July in order to save the tourism industry and all those dependent on it.

“The Phuket pilot program is essential in creating a path towards economic recovery for Thailand, a country heavily dependent on tourism. More than 17% of Thailand’s gross domestic product is attributed to tourism and the Covid-19 pandemic has lead to the worst economic free-fall in over 20 years”

The blog acknowledges the inherent risk and possible appearance of foolishness to prioritise the plans to reopen and carry on with the same rollout schedule. But they urge Thai authorities to consider that July 1 is still 2 and a half months away, leaving ample time to recover and make progress towards the approaching Phuket reopening. A vital aspect of the reopening plan lies in vaccinating over 70% of Phuket’s provincial residents, a sizable task, but one that brings great benefit with or without the scheduled reopening.

“Pushing ahead to achieve this goal puts Phuket on track to welcome back tourists, perhaps in a “bio-bubble”, and restart the economy. The economy is desperate with household debt growing, pushing the government to enact emergency decrees to provide relief. These households need the return of tourism and the influx of cash international tourists will bring.”

The blog hopes that Thai authorities can balance the necessary Covid-19 safety measures in Phuket to protect the Thai population with the economic need to bring back tourism. They believe that with sufficient measures in place, vaccinated locals could welcome vaccinated international tourists back to Phuket reopening safely in July.

SOURCE: Hotel News Resource

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand

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UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand | Thaiger

UPDATE: The field hospital in Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, west of the Chao Phraya river, had its first 10 Covid patients today. The director of the medical services office of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says that the 10 patients into the makeshift hospital, located at the Chalerm Phra Kiat Stadium, will enable assessment of the performance by the medical team, before more patients arrive – Thai PBS World

ORIGINAL STORY: Despite the confident posture and Songkran going ahead, amid restrictions, there is a lot of background activity which suggest the authorities are getting ready for a surge of new infections at the end of the Songkran break, officially this Thursday (but in reality, next Sunday at the end of the weekend when most people who travelled home will return for a resumption of work).

The Thai lunar new year celebrations – Songkran – are the largest mass movement of Thais each year, a source for a huge leap in road deaths and accidents. And, this year, a potential super-spreader event.

Quietly, at least 3,000 extra beds have been prepared in 10 field hospitals around Bangkok. The government has also confirmed that additional field hospitals are being set up in other potential ‘hot zones’, including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Hua Hin. Some of them were set up last year, and since closed, and now being prepared for new positive infections.

One Thai person who had been in one of the field hospitals put together a check-list of things to take IF you end up as an invited ‘guest’ HERE.

The CCSA say they are looking for additional beds in hotels and previous state quarantine facilities (where repatriating Thais were housed for their free quarantine) to be used if needed.

This year’s Songkran had bad timing, coming just a week after a number of major clusters were identified around some of Bangkok’s popular nightlife areas in 3 key inner city districts. Even before Songkran these isolated clusters had already spread into the provinces. In the weekend before Songkran the government had already listed 37 provinces which had instigated some form of paperwork or restrictions for people who had been in any of the 3 Bangkok districts.

The government also leapt on the source of the new outbreaks – bars, clubs and entertainment venues – and promptly shut them down for at least 2 weeks. At this stage it looks likely that that ban will be extended beyond the 2 weeks and, depending on the extent of new infections following the Songkran holiday, additional restrictions will also be added.

Even today the Civil Aviation Authority published a number of new in-flight restrictions for passengers – another blow to the hard-hit domestic aviation sector.

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Chiang Mai

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

Tim Newton

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Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger

The TAT, ever the optimists regarding anything tourism related, even domestic tourism, predict that the Bangkok clusters that have emerged in the week before the Songkran break could reduce traffic and spending by up to half.

Today the CCSA is reporting 789 new infections and one additional death. 522 were local infections, mostly walk-ins to Bangkok hospitals, 259 were discovered through track and tracing. The remaining 8 were found in quarantine from overseas arrivals. In Phuket, another 17 cases have been reported today, taking the island’s week total to 43.

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | News by ThaigerGRAPH: Worldometer figures for Thailand, up to April 9

A 68 year old man from Nakhon Pathom province died on April 4 but wasn’t reported until today. The CCSA report that he died from Covid and “complications”. 33 other former patients have recovered and been discharged.

Last week the TAT estimated 3.2 million domestic trips would circulate 12 billion baht for the Thai economy. But the Tourism Authority has now slashed their estimates by half after hotels, airlines and bus companies reported mass cancellations in the last few days. Other provinces are reporting less than 20% cancellations. Although this weekend will see a lot of travel, Songkran doesn’t formally start until next Tuesday and the TAT expect there could be additional fallout as travellers decide to have a staycation for Songkran instead heading home.

Bangkok Post reports that 70% of travellers to Prachuap Khiri Khan and Hua Hin have already cancelled hotel bookings. Similar cancellations have been reported in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many other provinces, particularly in the north east and north, are also enforcing quarantine on arrivals or additional paperwork to try and protect their provinces from any of the Bangkok clusters.

8 north eastern provinces rare now requiring 10 or 14 day quarantine periods for anyone arriving from areas where new clusters have been reported. Chiang Mai provincial officials say that tourists from Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi – basically Bangkok and surrounding provinces – must complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine or conduct a test for Covid when they arrive.

The reality is that the travel and quarantine changes are outstripping the ability to communicate them all. Anyone crossing into other provinces in the next few day, especially if you’re travelling from Bangkok and surrounding provincial ‘red zones’ can expect some additional paperwork or a Covid test. Or even quarantine.

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