Thailand bans beach parties on some holiday islands

Bangkok - Thai authorities have banned beach parties on some holiday islands to stop gatherings that can get out of control and lead to violence after the murder of two British backpackers last month, an official said on Monday.

The bodies of Britons Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were discovered a beach on the tourist island of Koh Tao, or Turtle Island, on September 15. Two Myanmar men have been arrested and charged with the murders.

Chatpong Chatputhi, governor of Surat Thani province which includes Koh Tao, said all beach parties would be banned with the exception of a Full Moon Party on Phangan island, following negative publicity after the murders.

"We've reached a point where we need to clean up the image of tourism in the province including beach parties that can get out of control and lead to violence," Chatpong told Reuters.

"This is aimed at tourists' safety. Sometimes these parties are held at secluded locations that are difficult to reach and where we cannot offer adequate protection."

The ban on parties covers all islands in the province which, as well as Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, includes Koh Samui. Chatpong said authorities on the islands were taking down posters advertising parties.

"Some people who come to the islands want peace and quiet but there are all sorts of parties," he said.

"This is also because of the killings on Koh Tao ... It's time to put things in order."

Police say Witheridge and Miller had been out drinking and went to a secluded stretch of beach where they were killed.

Their murders have dented Thailand's tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 10% of gross domestic product, at a time when the sector is struggling to recover from months of political unrest and a May 22 coup.

The police investigation has been tainted by suspicion the two Myanmar suspects may have been tortured during interrogation. Thailand's human rights commission has opened an inquiry into allegations of police torture.

But the Full Moon Party that attracts thousands of young foreigners every month, as well as its share of bad publicity, had dodged the ban as it was well organised, Chatpong said.

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