Wed, Jan 11, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Protesters punch suspects in Thai rape, murder case

AP , BANGKOK

Hundreds of residents of a Thai resort island angrily protested the killing of a British tourist, with some waving wooden clubs as police escorted the two Thai suspects back to the scene of the crime yesterday.

Besieged by protesters, police were forced to cancel a planned re-enactment of the murder of Katherine Horton, a 21-year-old student from Wales, whose battered body was found the morning of Jan. 2 by a jet skier in the Gulf of Thailand.

Two Thai fisherman confessed on Monday to killing Horton, who was vacationing on the island of Koh Samui, and DNA tests indicate the suspects raped the victim, police said.

Under questioning, the fishermen told police they spotted Horton while she was walking alone on a beach talking on her cellphone.

One of the men, Bualoi Posit, 23, told police he grabbed Horton's arms, while the other man, Wichai Somkhaoyai, 24, confessed to hitting her several times with a stick before they raped her and then threw her body into the sea, police said.

Shocking brutality

The brutality of the crime has shocked this Southeast Asian nation, which makes billions of dollars a year from its tourism industry.

National police spokesman Lieutenant-General Ayiravid Subarnbhesaj said that residents and shop owners on Koh Samui "hate the suspects for causing severe damage to the reputation of the country."

Police had initially planned to re-enact the crime on Monday but were thwarted by a crowd of hundreds.

Some protesters broke through a police barrier and began punching the suspects, said Ayiravid. A similar scene greeted police yesterday morning.

"We had to cancel plans to re-enact the crime for fear of violence," he said.

Police want to stage a run-through of the crime to back up the suspects' confessions.

Police said that despite the DNA findings, Wichai denies having raped the victim.

If convicted of murder, the two men could face the death penalty.

Damage to tourism

The arrests on Monday followed an unusual public appeal last week by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to find the killers, saying that the slaying hurt the country's image and could damage its tourism industry, already suffering a downturn from last year's tsunami and the bird flu scare.

"I feel somewhat relieved that police have made the arrests," Thaksin told reporters yesterday, calling for stern punishment if the men are found guilty.

"I hope the family [of Horton] feels a little better, because we are doing our best," Thaksin said.

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