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BANGKOK (AP) — Two workers from Myanmar have confessed to killing a pair of British tourists whose battered bodies were found on a beach in southern Thailand last month, and police said Friday that the suspects' DNA matched that collected from one of the victims.
The news followed weeks of pressure on police to solve a case that has threatened to damage the country's tourism industry, which has been struggling to recover since the army staged a coup and imposed martial law in May.
Police Maj. Gen. Kiattipong Khawsamang said that three Myanmar workers were detained and questioned by police, and two of them had admitted murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24. He said the other worker denied involvement in the attack on the island of Koh Tao, which is renowned for its quiet beaches and popular diving sites.
"We are interrogating them. So far, accounts from the two men matched and they confessed they killed the tourists," Kiattipong said by telephone on Thursday.
Police have so far declined to provide details on the identities of the migrants, but 2.5 million people from Myanmar work in this Southeast Asian country, most as domestic servants or in low-skilled manual labor industries like construction, fisheries or the garment sector.
On Friday, regional police commissioner Maj. Gen. Decha Budnampetch told AP that DNA samples collected from the two suspects matched evidence taken from Witheridge's body. Both men are in custody and a court is expected to issue formal arrest warrants before charges are issued.
"Together with other evidence and (testimony from witnesses) that we have collected thoroughly throughout the investigation, we are convinced that these two migrant workers were the killers," Decha said.
The bodies of the two tourists were discovered on Sept. 15 in a rocky alcove along the shore close to the hotel where both were staying. Autopsies showed that Witheridge died from head wounds while Miller suffered severe blows to the head and drowned in the surf.
It is still unclear what prompted the killings.
Thai police had searched for clues and collected DNA samples from more than 100 men on the island in the Gulf of Thailand.
Two of the Myanmar workers were detained on Koh Tao and the other in mainland Surat Thani province.
Koh Tao, about 410 kilometers (250 miles) south of Bangkok, is a quiet, small island a short boat ride from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The latter is known for raucous "full moon" parties that attract young foreigners and Thais.