• Kyodo

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Thai police said Monday they have arrested a Thai man and a teenager from Myanmar suspected of murdering two Japanese tourists who disappeared in Thailand last year.

According to police, Picherd Saenkaew, 30, from northeastern Thailand’s Sisaket Province, said that he and Aung Kyaw Zaw, 19, from the city of Keng Tung in Myanmar’s Shan State, murdered Akinobu Abe, 32, in April 2001 and Tomohiro Kosha, 30, in July the same year and disposed of the bodies in Bangkok.

Abe’s body was found on April 5, 2001, in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok. Police are still searching for Kosha.

Picherd, whom police described as a transvestite, and Aung Kyaw Zaw were arrested Sunday at a bar in Sukhumvit where they worked.

Police said Picherd also confessed to killing Chinese-Canadian David Chan with the help of two Thai men who are still at large. Chan’s body was found in February 2001 in Sukhothai Province.

Picherd and Aung Kyaw Zaw’s alleged crimes threaten to damage the nation’s tourism industry, according to Thai Police Commissioner General Gen. Sant Sarutanond.

Abe, of Hokkaido, entered Thailand from Shanghai on Jan. 26, 2001. Police said a relative in Japan received an e-mail from him on April 2 that year in which he said he planned to travel to Myanmar on April 15.

Picherd told a news conference that he murdered Abe at Picherd’s Sukhumvit apartment after the two had spent an evening together watching a bout of Thai kick-boxing. He said the two had previously met in Vientiane in 2000.

Kosha, of Kumamoto, went missing on July 12, 2001, after arriving in Aranyaprathet, where he planned to stay overnight before catching a train to Bangkok the next day, according to his sister, who received an e-mail from him on the day he arrived in the northeastern town on the Cambodian border.

Picherd said he met Kosha on the Aranyaprathet-to-Bangkok train and invited him to stay overnight at his Sukhumvit apartment. Picherd killed Kosha in the apartment the next day and chopped up his body, he said.

Picherd told police that he used the victims’ travelers checks and credit cards.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, who was also brought before reporters, denied any involvement in the murders, saying he only helped transport the remains.

Both Picherd and Aung Kyaw Zaw face a possible death penalty if convicted on the charge of premeditated murder. They have also been charged with counterfeiting and other offenses.

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