BANGKOK (AFP) - Thai police on Wednesday identified a man caught on security camera as the "prime suspect" in the murder of two British tourists on a resort island, as detectives raised hopes that a post-mortem examination would yield valuable clues.
The man was seen on closed circuit television near a bar on Koh Tao island where David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were partying shortly before they were beaten to death early on Monday.
Local media reports said the man - believed to be of Asian appearance - was twice seen on camera, the first time passing the bar and later hurriedly returning from the direction where the bodies of the British pair were found behind some rocks.
"He is the prime suspect but we don't know his whereabouts yet," Kiattipong Khawsamang, Surat Thani provincial police commander, said, confirming the man in the CCTV footage was Asian.
Several Myanmar nationals working on the resort have already been quizzed over the killings, which have shocked the small community of travellers and residents on the normally tranquil resort island, a diving hot-spot near Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand.
"We have questioned four to five Myanmar migrant workers and allowed them to go back to their rooms - but under their employers' watch," he said.
Myanmar migrants are frequently accused of committing crimes in the kingdom, where they make up a vast, poorly-paid and low-status workforce.
Hopes turn to DNA
On Wednesday, scores of police continued to hunt for clues to the gruesome crime, as pressure to resolve the case mounted with the investigation entering a third day without an arrest. Senior officers are hoping a post-mortem examination of the victims' bodies - which arrived at a Bangkok forensic centre late Tuesday - could yield a breakthrough.
"We have to wait for the result of DNA tests," regional police commander Panya Maman told AFP, adding genetic samples had been taken from six Myanmar nationals.
Another senior policeman said two of Miller's friends - both British men in their 20s - had agreed to remain in Thailand at the request of the police.
"They are not yet suspects... but we have asked them to cooperate until the case becomes clear," Deputy National Police Chief Somyot Poompanmoung told AFP.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, Miller's family described the engineering graduate as "hard-working, bright, conscientious, with everything to look forward to".
Thailand's military ruler on Tuesday urged investigators to conclude the cases "swiftly", no doubt aware of the potential damage the grisly killings could do to the country's image as a tourist haven.
Condemning the crime, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha, who is also the outgoing army chief, also appeared to question the conduct of the victims and warned foreigners to take care in the kingdom.
Thailand will be desperate to avoid further damage to the nation's lucrative tourism industry, which has been battered in recent months after a prolonged political crisis ended in a coup.
With the start of the tourist high season just two months away, the junta has vowed to restore the nation's reputation as the "Land of Smiles", embarking on a clean-up of tourist resorts after a series of complaints about scams, assaults and even police extortion.