A man has been charged with murder of a Swiss tourist who was visiting the resort island of Phuket as part of Thailand's 'sandbox' scheme.
The 27-year-old man was arrested and charged with murder and robbery resulting in death. According to local media, the man allegedly strangled the 57-year-old woman and then stole 300 baht ($12.50) from her.
"I would like to apologise to the tourist's family and beg all Thais to excuse me," the man said on Sunday, the day after his arrest.
It is understood the head of police for the southern region of Thailand said the man had confessed during an interrogation.
The tourist, Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, was found dead on Thursday near a remote but popular waterfall in the south of Phuket.
The woman's shorts, a smartphone and her passport were found near to her body, which had been at the waterfall for no more than three days.
According to Swiss media, the man had been in the area nearby to the woman collecting exotic plants. He allegedly spotted the woman swimming at the waterfall, and then tried to steal her belongings.
At that point, an argument allegedly broke out which likely led to the woman's death, police alleged.
The man then took off with the woman's 300 baht from her backpack, covered the body with a black tarpaulin and fled.
"Police have charged the offender for murder and robbery causing death," Krisana Pattanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman said at a news conference in Phuket.
"The cause of death has yet to be confirmed and autopsy has yet to be released," he said.
The woman was in Thailand as part of the country's new 'Phuket Sandbox' scheme which has been introduced to allow vaccinated tourists back to the resort island.
With tourism being such a crucial industry to Thailand, the scheme hopes to boost the dire numbers in Phuket that has been recorded since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
In July, for example, tourists numbers in Phuket were at just 1 per cent of pre-pandemic levels – a number that needs to increase given tourism accounts for 90 per cent of the island's economy.
"In the past, we were looking at 43,000 daily arrivals, so what we got was 1 per cent of normality," he said. "One per cent in business terms is not OK, but 1 per cent also gives hope," Phuket Tourist Association president Bhummikitti Ruktaengam told Reuters.
"We're seeing the light. It's encouraging."