Thailand islanders offer reward for clues on British tourist killers

Residents on the Thai island where two British tourists were brutally murdered have pooled their funds into a reward for clues about the killers, an official said Friday, as police hunted for fresh leads. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Residents on the Thai island where two British tourists were brutally murdered have pooled their funds into a reward for clues about the killers, an official said Friday, as police hunted for fresh leads. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (AFP) - Residents on the Thai island where two British tourists were brutally murdered have pooled their funds into a reward for clues about the killers, an official said Friday, as police hunted for fresh leads.

The search for suspects continued on the southern diving island of Koh Tao after David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were found naked and beaten to death near a beachside bungalow early Monday.

The police investigation appeared to have stalled after post-mortem examinations of the victims' bodies in Bangkok failed to find DNA links to key suspects questioned so far.

"At this point we offer 50,000 baht (S$1,965.59) for anyone who can provide clues which lead to the arrest of a suspect," Koh Tao mayor Chaiyan Turasakul told AFP.

"The money comes from donations from the people of Koh Tao."

The murders have rocked the normally laid-back island and landed a new blow to Thailand's image as a tourist haven, battered by months of political protests that ended in May's army coup.

Several dozen Koh Tao residents held a religious ceremony to offer prayers for the dead on Thursday, Chaiyan said, with many more assisting police in the search.

On Friday regional police commander Panya Maman said around 160 officers were hunting for clues on the small island, which neighbours the more-visited Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand.

"I have deployed police in nearby islands as well as on the mainland," he said.

With no arrests and an apparent lack of new leads, it is unclear where the police investigation can turn.

Earlier this week comments by Thailand's military ruler Prayuth Chan-ocha, suggesting tourists in bikinis could be more vulnerable to attack, triggered an international outcry, leading the premier to apologise.

"They think our country is beautiful and is safe so they can do whatever they want, they can wear bikinis and walk everywhere," Prayuth said in off-the-cuff remarks to government officials, two days after the murder of the British pair.

But "can they be safe in bikinis... unless they are not beautiful?" On Thursday, in a rare public moment of contrition from the army chief, Prayuth said he was "sorry" his remarks hurt people.

According to an official source, Prayuth will Friday send letters to the British prime minister and the families of the two victims offering his condolences over the deaths and explaining his recent comments.