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While tragedies occur in every corner of the globe, what sets Koh Tao apart is the residents reaction, both to the victim’s families and the press.
While residents of Koh Tao argue that the reputation of the island has been shattered by press reporting, and not the high numbers of young travellers who lose their life on the island, onlookers are baffled by their lack of concern for tourist safety.
Any island that welcomes, and benefits from, the tourist dollar has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the very tourist who bring the income. Regardless of the defensive attitude of many Koh Tao residents who post on social media that deaths happen everywhere in the world, nobody can deny the number of deaths of young healthy travellers on Koh Tao is alarming.
Rather than call emergency meetings to discuss tourist safety and consider implementing systems to increase the safety of visitors to the island, Koh Tao residents call meetings to find ways of silencing the press and bringing legal action against those who bring tourist deaths to public attention.
In the last few days Claire Wyndham has created a change.org petition – ‘Hold SAMUI TIMES responsible for destroying Koh Taos tourist trade’. Wyndham, who describes herself as Owner and Manager of Koh Tao International Primary and a Koh Tao resident, posts “The Samui Times has continuously made false and inaccurate statements about Koh Tao Island that have been quoted and shared by international news sources all over the World.” “We are asking all Koh Tao residents to sign a petition that can be presented to the authorities reporting ourselves as victims of the Samui Time’s illegal activity.”
What Claire Wyndham fails to mention are the family members of actual victims who tragically lost their lives on Koh Tao and how they deserve satisfactory investigations into their loved ones deaths and have a right to information and answers. This attitude is common on Koh Tao among residents who announce on social media platforms that their concern is for their income and not the wellbeing of visitors to the island or the wellbeing of the loved ones of those who died.
It is hard to imagine what it is like to not be provided an autopsy report when your daughter dies in the case of Elise, the young Belgium girl found dead in Koh Tao, it is hard to imagine what it is like to have no trace of your daughter who was last seen in Koh Tao in the case of young Russian Girl Valentina, it is hard to imagine spending your life convinced your son was murdered in the case of Nick, a Brit who was found dead while on vacation with his family. It is hard to imagine how you feel when the police did not contact the last person who saw your daughter alive in the case of Christina, a young British girl found dead in her resort. It is hard to imagine seeing your friend dead with suspicious bruises and being sure of foul play in the case of Luke. It is even harder to imagine the reality that your son or daughters lives were brutally cut short in a horrific double murder in the case of David and Hannah. However it seems the residents are not even trying to imagine what the families and friends of these poor souls are going through and only imagine silencing the press. If there is nothing to hide then why should the press be silenced? Why should the press be responsible for suspicions being cast over the island and not the deaths or the unhappy relatives themselves? If the amount of deaths, according to the Koh Tao residents, is nothing unusual, then why object to them being reported on.
Perhaps what makes the press suspect something is amiss are conversations such as the one the Samui Times had with the British Paramedic and Koh Tao rescue worker who was at the scene of the horrific murders of British Hannah Withering and David Miller. Just after the murders when asked about Sean McAnna, the man who claims the mafia were going to kill him and frame him for the murders, Steve Drylie said, “I think the ones who did it saw him and thought he was a witness so ran after him”
When the Samui Times asked him how he thought Sean could sleep at night when he may have information that could saves the lives of the Burmese after they were convicted and sentenced to death for the murders he said “The truth will come out one day” when asked how it would come out he responded “Thai people cannot keep their mouths shut”.
Koh Tao residents shout unfair and inaccurate reporting. If the conviction of the Burmese men is sound, why on earth is somebody who works with the Koh Tao rescue and Koh Tao police telling the local paper that “the truth will come out one day” and in another conversation described the police as having less skills than “cub scouts on an explorer badge” when discussing a body that was found washed up on Koh Phangan.
We may not have answers to the reasons for every death on Koh Tao and we many never know the truth, however, one truth we do know is that hundreds of thousands of people have questioned the guilt of the Burmese men who stand to be executed for a crime they may not have committed and many of the families of those who have died in Koh Tao do not trust the police or their investigations. We do know that the local authorities have announced they will sue this publication for its reporting and that Koh Tao residents blame the Samui Times for the decline in tourism and not the deaths of young, innocent travellers whose life came to an end on their shores.