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Phuket Opinion: How to catch a killer

PHUKET: The world this week finally got see what the Royal Thai Police can achieve when the right resources and the right level of importance is dedicated to catching a killer.

opinionpolicemurderdeathtourismSafety
By The Phuket News

Sunday 8 August 2021, 09:00AM


National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk (right, in blue jacket) inspecting the scene of the murder at Ao Yon Waterfall yesterday (Aug 7). Photo: Phuket Provincial Police

National police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk (right, in blue jacket) inspecting the scene of the murder at Ao Yon Waterfall yesterday (Aug 7). Photo: Phuket Provincial Police

The murder of 57-year-old Swiss tourist Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf shocked the international community, and every person on the island. An outpouring of outrage and anger vented online after news of her body being found broke on Thursday afternoon. Yet 48 hours later officers had their killer in custody, now identified as Thai national Teerawat Thothip, 27, from Pa Khlok, on Phuket’s east coast.

The difference between how this investigation was handled and that of the Koh Tao murders of British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in 2014 is immense. The message from the top was clear, and this time it was not just words. Senior, experienced police investigators were immediately dispatched to the island to take command of the investigation and ensuing manhunt. The task was not left to local police until it was clear that the task was beyond their capabilities.

Some comments online claimed that the level of importance given to hunting Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf’s killer was only out of respect of her position as Deputy Chief of Protocol at the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. Other comments claimed that the response was only out of fear of the repercussions her death would have on any potential tourists thinking of coming to Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox scheme.

The Phuket News respectfully disagrees. Both are clear factors, but any person making those claims has been obviously unaware of how deeply Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf’s death affected the Phuket community. In general, it was perceived as an attack on local people’s sensibilities and was branded for exactly what it was, a crime against life. Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, President of Phuket Tourist Association, in expressing his condolences to Ms Sauvain-Weisskopf’s loved ones was exemplary in his choice of words: “We will not tolerate any incidents like this.”

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For all their issues and shortfalls, and there are many, Phuket police over the years have a good track record in bringing perpetrators of heinous crimes on the island to justice. To be fair, though, Teerawat’s chances of escaping were not good. He was on an island that is essentially under lockdown, where police track down even petty criminals through CCTV and arrest them at their homes. Worse for Teerawat, his registered address is in Pa Khlok, indicating that his where his family call home. Anyone familiar with Pa Khlok will know, his chances of hiding in that community were small, never mind when an entire island is looking for him.

National newspapers have called the level of safety for tourists in the country “shameful” and a “disgrace”. Many foreigners living in Phuket could easily argue that it is much safer here than some places in their home countries. Regardless, Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn this week to his credit openly admitted that much more needed to be done to improve safety, with Thailand ranking 110th out of 150 countries in an international survey last year, though it would easily be believed that such surveys included Thailand’s most dangerous aspect, it’s roads. Even then, in Phuket historically it has been far more dangerous for a tourist to get caught in a rip current off Phuket’s west coast during the southwest monsoon than being killed in a traffic accident. That horrific statistic belongs predominantly to Thais.

Regarding the hunting of criminals wanting for taking the life of another person, what is shameful is how the same level of endeavour in bringing perpetrators to justice is not applied in other cases that have embarrassed the country.

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tamvong | 09 August 2021 - 10:59:30

Disgraceful "journalism." He is the ALLEGED killer until properly tried and convicted. And you say the difference between this and Koh Tao is "immense" but only list one reason - "Senior, experienced police investigators were immediately dispatched to the island to take command of the investigation and ensuing manhunt" - the SAME as in the Koh Tao case!

Dave_C | 08 August 2021 - 16:08:18

Source - Thaiger - cannot reproduce the reference here but you can find it on AseanNow.

Dave_C | 08 August 2021 - 16:06:31

@DeKaaskopp
A police commander was speaking to the media and exclaimed “Good news” and stated that the case was “all wrapped up”.
Police say they have arrested a 33 year old Burmese national. 
They claim they have CCTV footage with the suspect riding a motorcycle on the road close to the waterfall.
In later reports today Thai media has described the suspect as a 27 tear old Thai - 
(T

Christy Sweet | 08 August 2021 - 14:32:00

In USA it's 1 out of 3 women sexually assaulted. I've never been groped in Thailand or had a bunch of construction workers harass me. UK, US and Australian  men have some issues with women that are not as prevalent in the East, likely to do with women achieving equality- really sets some guys off. I expect as things change, it will get worse  before  it gets better. 

DeKaaskopp | 08 August 2021 - 14:09:47

@DaveC. Who said yesterday the murder would have been from Myanmar ?

sympassion | 08 August 2021 - 13:07:59

I have always felt very safe in Thailand so far. I am very shocked by the murder of Nicole. I am also here alone and have walked several kilometers on the island. Let’s be realistic. In another ‘safe’ country - my home country Holland - 1 of 8 women get raped once in their life. Me too. Nicole’s death is a wake-up call for all of us. Be aware that there can be bad people everywhere. Take c

Christy Sweet | 08 August 2021 - 12:02:46

Op-Ed - "Exemplary in choice of words"? Umm "We will not tolerate incidents like these.." Incidents?  C'mon.  And "embarrassed the country" is beyond perverse. All about aesthetics, never substance.

Dave_C | 08 August 2021 - 10:43:58

Why is it today a Thai national being accused when yesterday it was a Myanmar national.
Is that the kind of attention to details that you are talking about ?

 

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