Friday, January 13, 2006

Thai Prime Minister offers execution as remedy

PM: Horton’s killers must be put to death
Bangkok Post January 11, 2006

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday called for the execution of two fishermen if they are convicted of the rape and murder of a British tourist on Koh Samui. "They must be sentenced to the harshest possible punishment," Mr Thaksin told reporters in the northeastern town of Loei where he was travelling. "They have caused serious damage to our country's reputation. By giving them the maximum sentence, it will give remedy to the relatives and the British government and show that we are taking the case seriously," he said. He expressed confidence the government's efforts to mete out justice would soothe the victim's grief-stricken family. The prime minister also warned police not to target anyone as scapegoats for the murder.
Police prepared their case for prosecutors after the two men were charged Monday with the Jan 1 rape and murder of 21-year-old Katherine Horton. Horton's body was found on Jan 2 in the sea off Koh Samui in Surat Thani. She was visiting the country on a short vacation before her final university exams in Britain. Yesterday, police flew the two suspects, Bualoi Phothisit, 23, an Ubon Ratchathani native, and Wichai Somkhaoyai, 24, of Nakhon Si Thammarat, by helicopter from Koh Samui to Surat Thani police station for interrogation. A planned re-enactment was cancelled for the second time yesterday and the suspects' detention location and all legal proceedings were transferred from Koh Samui to the provincial police station because of fears that angry crowds on Koh Samui might attack the men if they remained on the island. The suspects had donned police uniforms to evade the attention of locals.
"There were hundreds of Samui residents who rallied and denounced the suspects, whom they said had damaged the island's reputation," Pol Maj-Gen Santhan Chayanond, deputy chief of Provincial Police Bureau 8, said. "So for the sake of the suspects' safety and to let them to fight for justice in court, we decided to cancel the reenactment." Bualoi confessed to the murder and rape charges but Wichai denied he had raped Horton. Still, police said they were confident they had enough evidence to charge the Nakhon Si Thammarat man with rape and murder. "Even though Wichai confessed to hurting the victim and denied a rape charge, we have clear and sufficient evidence to nail him," said Pol Maj-Gen Santhan.
The case will be forwarded to the public attorney who will recommend whether to indict the suspects before the Surat Thani court on Friday. To prevent any more such cases, the police officer said he was looking to propose the establishment of one more police station on Koh Samui to better maintain peace and order.
Amnuay Dejchana, owner of the New Hut Bungalow where Horton last stayed, said he felt relieved that the suspects had been caught. His bungalow has seen occupancy rates tumble since news of the murder spread.
Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said in Loei he was ready to visit Horton's family in Wales if the opportunity permitted. The Foreign Ministry would keep in touch with the British embassy and the Hortons in case the family had any questions about the investigation. Mr Kantathi said the murder reflected badly on Thailand's reputation.

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