Violence returns to town that buried its brutal past

A banner strung across the entrance to the resort town of Kanchanaburi in Thailand - home to the Bridge on the River Kwai and a magnet for British backpackers - bears the slogan: "Welcome to the land of Peace and Love."

Yesterday, however, police officers were swarming over the skidmarks on the main riverside road where Vanessa Arscott was run over and then shot after a row with an off-duty policeman. The bloodstains were already fading.

A sombre mood pervaded the S&S restaurant, where Ms Arscott and her boyfriend ate their last meal before Adam Lloyd, 25, became embroiled in a row with the killer that led to the two Britons being murdered. A few people sat at empty tables to catch the breeze off the river but there was no food or bar service. The skull of a water buffalo took centre stage on an otherwise empty bandstand.

Jasper Boonker, a Dutch tourist strolling around the town with his wife, was stunned by the news of the murders. "We felt quite safe in this town. But I guess people are unpredictable. You must keep a low profile when you travel in Asia and never make people lose face."

Sean Finley, 20, a student from London, said: "I still think Thailand is safe. I am not worried about travelling alone. As most reasonable travellers do, I try to avoid getting into fights."

Violent crime rarely affects the 10 million foreign visitors a year who enjoy the country's pristine beaches, ancient Buddhist temples and lively nightlife. It draws large numbers of tourists and clubbers to drug-fuelled Full Moon parties on islands such as Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

Kanchanaburi is normally a peaceful town visited each year by thousands of tourists, many of them World War Two veterans, eager to see the notorious Thailand-Burma railroad.

Because of its proximity to Bangkok, it is often the young travellers' last stop on a trip that includes the islands and trekking in Chiang Mai in the country's north. It is likely that this was the case for Mr Lloyd and Ms Arscott who were due to fly home to their families this weekend.

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