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On November 25 2007 the body of murdered Japanese tourist Tomoko Kawashita was found in a small patch of jungle near Wat Saphan Hin in Sukhothai Historical Park, where she had been to take part in a Loy Krathong festival celebration. The twenty seven year old woman from Osaka had been travelling on her own around the north of Thailand. Police spokesman Major General Pongsapat PongCharoen told the local media, who had gathered outside the hospital where her body was being held, that the reason she chose to go to Sukhothai was because that is where Loi Krathong started. On November the 27th the woman’s parents and brother arrived in Thailand to identify her body and Major General Pongsapat said that after speaking with her family he would be giving his officers some information with regards to that conversation and with maximum effort expected to be able to find the perpetrator and bring them to justice. Kawashita’s body was found with her throat slashed and her body bruised, however they found no sign of rape, a possible motive for the crime. However the injuries to her body suggested that she had fought back and may have been killed in a struggle that could have taken place before an attempted rape.
Tomoko Kawashita had saved money for her Thailand trip by taking extra jobs and was especially attracted to the Loy Krathong festival, her parents said. Her father added that his daughter loved Thailand but had died undeservedly in a country where the people were nice and held the same Buddhist belief as his daughter did. Speaking through translators, he said: “I cannot comprehend why such a thing has happened to my daughter.” The father pleaded with those who had clues to the murder to come forward and called for speedy action by Thai police to arrest those responsible.
The Tambon Muang Kao police found no clues leading to the killer, so proposed to Sukhothai prosecutors in May 2009 that they stop investigating the case. The prosecutors agreed to the request but asked that the case be reopened if any further information regarding the case came to the surface.
In July the DSI reopened the investigation as a special case after receiving a request from the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
Their review of the case files found that a male Japanese tourist had been spotted near the murder scene around the time of the killing was believed to have taken place. Local police had failed to pursue that lead. The police then set about trying to identify the man so they could compare his DNA to samples found on the body. Japanese authorities agreed to help the DSI to obtain DNA samples and announced a joint investigation.
Mr Tarit said the DSI, Japanese police attached to the Japanese embassy and Sukhothai police commander Rangsan Kotchakrai met in Sukhothai on Tuesday to discuss the case.
The investigators agreed in principal to re-examine the DNA found on Kawashita’s clothes, he said, adding that a Japanese court would be asked to order DNA tests on the Japanese man seen by the witness when he was eventually found.
On October 5th the DSI prosecutors, forensics police and Japanese police met to discuss ways to obtain DNA samples from the victim’s clothes in Japan.
A police source said the murder weapon may not be a fruit knife as reported in the earlier investigation, but could be a bush knife s the cuts to the victims throat were deep.
More than two hundred people were interviewed in connection with the case including workers in the park, security guards and residents. Robbery was also believed to be a possible motive for the crime as some of the victims valuables were missing.
On November 5th 2013 Japanese ambassador Shigekazu Sato called on the national police chief to speed up the investigation into the 2007 murder of a Japanese tourist. Mr Sato also raised concerns about the safety of the 1.2 million Japanese tourists who visit Thailand each year. Pol Gen Adul said he would order Pol Lt Gen Wanchai Thanatkij, chief of Police Region 6, to follow up on the murder case.