Thai officials raise security after Swiss woman found dead
BANGKOK (AP) — Thai authorities have ordered heightened security measures on the resort island of Phuket after the discovery of the body of a 57-year-old Swiss tourist amid signs of foul play, officials said Friday.
The woman’s partially clad body was found face down in water in a rock crevice near a waterfall Thursday afternoon by an island resident, police said.
From the condition of the body, it appeared she had been dead for several days, Phuket regional police commander Kitirath Phanpetch told local MCOT television.
“From what we saw at the scene, the body was covered with a black sheet, which suggests it was done by someone and she did not die of natural causes,” he said.
At a news conference in Bangkok on Friday, national police deputy spokesman Col. Kissana Phathanacharoen said investigators were still awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha expressed his condolences to the family of the woman, identified as Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, and urged police to devote all efforts to quickly solving the case.
“The prime minister ordered concerned agencies to expedite the investigation to identify and arrest the culprit,” he said.
He also ordered other government agencies to increase support for tourists in Phuket and to “tighten safety and public health measures.”
Swiss media reported that Sauvain-Weisskopf was a member of the country’s diplomatic service but Thai officials did not comment on her job.
Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the death of a female citizen, but refused to release any details about her on privacy grounds.
“Investigations into the circumstances are underway,” the ministry said, adding that the Swiss Embassy is keeping in contact with the local Thai authorities about the case.
The incident casts a pall over Thailand’s so-called Phuket Sandbox program to try and bring fully vaccinated foreign tourists to the previously popular tourist destination, which has been struggling massively during the coronavirus pandemic.
From the start of the program at the beginning of July through the end of the month, 14,055 visitors traveled to Phuket, generating an income of 1.925 billion Thai baht (about $58 million), according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. The top five nationalities of visitors were American, British, Israeli, German and French.
Associated Press writers David Rising in Bangkok and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.