Authorities fire back over Koh Tao ‘Death Island’ label

FRIDAY, JULY 07, 2017

IN A BID to clear the name of Koh Tao, dubbed “Death Island” where some foreigners have died and gone missing, Surat Thani authorities yesterday held a press briefing to detail all the deaths and cases of missing people there, saying most of the cases were not crime related and were solved.

The briefing took place as the Koh Tao district chief filed criminal charges against a local news website, samuitimes, for allegedly giving the popular beach destination that name.
Attending the press briefing were Pol Lt-General Thanet Pin-ngammuang, the assistant national police chief overseeing the region; Surat Thani Governor Uanchai Intanak; and Surat Thani police chief Pol Maj-General Apichart Boonsrirote. Thirawat Pitpayan from the Belgium Embassy in Bangkok was also present.
Surat Thani police chief Apichart said investigation into all the deaths – Briton Nick Pearson, 25 (January 1, 2014), French Dimitri Povese, 24 (January 1, 2015), British Christina Annesley, 23 (January 21, 2015), British Luke Miller, 26 (January 9) – were already concluded as not being related to crime and their families had agreed with the conclusion.
The case of Russian Valentina Novozhyonova, 24, who went missing in February this year on the island, is still open because her body was not found, while the death of Elise Dallemagne, 30, a Belgian, has been reopened despite the autopsy concluding that she had committed suicide.
Only the deaths of David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on September 15, 2014, were crimes and the killers were sentenced to death by the First and Appeals courts.

Authorities fire back over Koh Tao ‘Death Island’ label
Speaking at the same briefing, Surat Thani Governor Uanchai said that tourists and people could be confident of safety on the island as all the local authorities have made their best efforts to take care of people and tourists. 
The governor said he had already instructed the district chief to file criminal charges against the local online news outlet Samui Times, after it ran an article last month that questioned the police account of Dallemagne’s death and referred to Koh Tao as “Death Island”. 
AFP reported that the island authorities are now suing the online news site for violating the Computer Crime Act, which outlaws uploading false information online. Koh Tao Mayor Chaiyan Thurasakul said the website is accused of “damaging Koh Tao’s reputation by calling it Death Island”.
The charges were filed on Thursday by local district chief Krikkrai Songtanee, who said the report had caused “panic” in tourists and many had cancelled their bookings”.

Authorities fire back over Koh Tao ‘Death Island’ label
Samui Times, which said it had yet to be contacted about the charges, defended its reporting in an online post. “The Samui Times believes that it is in the best interests of any visitor to the island to be aware of the numerous tourist deaths and the fact that many families of those who died on the island are not satisfied with police investigations,” it said.