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Court Sentences Monk to Death for Murder of British Tourist

January 31, 1996

KANCHANABURI, Thailand (AP) _ A Thai court today sentenced a Buddhist monk to death for murdering a British tourist and dumping her body in the temple trash.

The monk, 21-year-old Yodchat Suaphu, asked to be executed as soon as possible in the spot where he killed the 23-year-old Englishwoman, Johanne Masheder.

``I’m aware of my guilt,″ Yodchat told reporters. ``I want to be executed within 24 hours to be an example for others not to do as I did.″

Yodchat, an admitted amphetamine addict, pleaded guilty Friday to the murder of Masheder, who was taking a trip around the world after graduating from law school. On Tuesday the court heard evidence from more than a dozen witnesses.

Judge Somchat Thanyavinichkul said he was imposing the ultimate penalty because Yodchat had failed to reform his ways after serving a 2 1/2-year jail term for rape.

The judge also said the killing had damaged the image of Buddhism _ the religion of about 90 percent of the Thai people _ and hurt the reputation of the country. A two-judge panel delivered the verdict.

The killing had caused outrage among many Thais. It has spurred plans for closer supervision of temples and monks, including the issuance of government identification cards.

Meanwhile, the abbot of the temple where Yodchat was a monk has been removed from his post, local newspapers reported today.

The government’s Religious Affairs Department had asked provincial religious authorities to dismiss Phra Khru Kanchana Kittiwat for failing to properly supervise the monks at his temple.

Masheder, from Cheshire, Britain, had been the subject of a intense manhunt after her parents reported her missing last December.

Her body was discovered on Jan. 14 by police in a cave on the grounds of a temple, Wat Khao Poon, in this town near the Burmese border. Yodchat was arrested the same day after police found some of Masheder’s possessions in his room at the temple. He was defrocked when he was arrested, according to Thai law.

Police said Yodchat confessed to killing Masheder on Dec. 10 by pushing her into a ditch and smashing her skull with a rock after she resisted a robbery attempt.

Yodchat stole $20 and a camera from her before dumping her body in the cave, which the temple used to dispose of garbage.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Yodchat was unemotional but expressed remorse for the killing.

``I’m very sorry and I would like to apologize to Johanne’s father and mother,″ he said. ``I didn’t intend to kill her.″

He said he could not restrain himself from attacking Masheder because he was high on amphetamines at the time.

Police said Yodchat also confessed to having raped an Austrian tourist a few days before he killed Masheder. The Austrian woman wrote to Thai authorities and a Bangkok newspaper in late December to describe the incident.