Cambodians arrested for raping French tourists on Thai island of Ko Kut

Two Cambodian fishermen accused of raping two French female tourists and assaulting their two male companions, lie cuffed in Ko Kut island, Thailand, on Feb 28, 2016.
Two Cambodian fishermen accused of raping two French female tourists and assaulting their two male companions, lie cuffed in Ko Kut island, Thailand, on Feb 28, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK (AFP) - Five Cambodian fishermen have been arrested for a brutal attack on a group of French tourists in which two women were raped at knifepoint on an isolated Thai beach, police said on Monday (Feb 29).

It is the latest high profile assault on foreign visitors in Thailand, a country that is hugely reliant on its lucrative tourist trade.

Investigators said four French holidaymakers were attacked late Saturday on Ko Kut (also known as Koh Kood), an underdeveloped island close to Cambodia's western border with Thailand.

Police said the attackers allegedly swam from their fishing boat to assault the group.

Two injured male victims escaped to raise the alarm. When locals and police reached the scene, the five attackers ran off but were swiftly apprehended, police major general Nopparat Rinthaphol told AFP.

"They (the attackers) all confessed and police have already brought them to do a re-enactment," he added, referring to a common police technique where the accused replay their crimes for investigators, often in front of the media.

The alleged assailants have all been charged with rape and violent assault while the victims have been taken to hospital on the mainland.

Thailand remains an enormously popular tourist destination with more than 28 million people visiting last year, a record high.

The December to February period, when the tropical climate is cooler, is peak tourist season.

But a number of grisly and violent crimes against foreigners has sullied the country's reputation as a tourist haven.

In September, two Myanmar migrant workers were sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of two British backpackers, one of whom was raped, on the diving island of Koh Tao after a controversial investigation and trial.

Thai authorities insist the two men are guilty. But the defence team believes the pair have been made scapegoat by a local police force desperate to get results.

Tourism remains one of the few bright spots in the Thai economy accounting for at least 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

The junta-led country posted a lacklustre growth rate of just 2.8 per cent last year, one of the lowest in the region with analysts saying much of that growth came from tourism.

Given just how many people visit Thailand, the kingdom remains a relatively safe destination with violent attacks still rare.

Instead it is the less headline-grabbing scourge of traffic accidents that claims far more tourist lives.

In a 2015 study on global road safety, the World Health Organisation found Thailand had the world's second most dangerous roads with 36.2 fatalities per 100,000 people. Only Libya's road fatality rate was higher.