PHUKET: Passport theft has been suggested as the motive for the savage beating inflicted on a Malaysian royal's personal bodyguard on Phuket this week.
The suggestion raises more questions than it answers, coming as it does through the Bernama news agency from a spokesperson for Kedah Regency Council chairman Tan Sri Tunku Annuar Sultan Badlishah.
The headline in thestar.com.my says: 'Attack on bodyguard in Phuket case of passport theft, says Kedah palace.'
Just why a gang would travel from Malaysia to steal a single passport provides an added puzzle to the mystery of the motive for the attack.
Phuketwan received a telephone call within hours of the incident, and it was suggested that the involvement of the Malaysian party should be downplayed.
Since then, an official at Phuket Provincial Hall has politely passed on a request from Malaysia to all of Phuket's media for the coverage of the attack to be more low-key.
Now a formal statement comes from the Sultan of Kedah's chief private secretary Datuk Syed Unan Mashri Syed Abdullah, to clarify ''that the attack had nothing to do with any threat on Tunku Annuar.''
The statement comes while police on Phuket are in the middle of an investigation to determine the real motive for the attack and to lay charges if warranted.
If the holidaymakers who have since returned to Malaysia know more about the crime committed in Phuket, perhaps it's time they were completely transparent.
Five people are under arrest and still being questioned about the attack, which came early on Wednesday morning.
The release of the statement through Bernama is bizarre in terms of its timing. Or do the people behind it know more than they have told police on Phuket?
Attempts at interfering with and controlling media coverage are bound to raise more questions. This may not be as obvious in Malaysia, where the media has been known to supress or distort stories in the past.
Phuketwan intends to wait until police on Phuket have formed a view about what transpired. Until then, we will await further instructions from Malaysia with interest.
The text of the Bernama report continues as follows: '''Preliminary investigation by the Thai police revealed that the incident had something to do with passport thefts because the black market price for an illegal passport is high,' said Syed Unan, who is also the secretary of the Kedah Regency Council.
''On the night of the incident, Mohd Sobri Said, the special assistant to Tunku Annuar, returned to his room at the Millennium Resort Lake Side Hotel, Patong and found four robbers in his room.
''The Thai robbers assaulted Mohd Sobri to the extent that he suffered cuts and bound him.
''They seized his Malaysian passport, mobile phone and wallet, but did not take other items, said Syed Unan.
''The media reported that Thai police have detained two Malaysian men in their 40's to assist in in the investigation into the case. Also detained were their wives and a Thai national.''
The Bernama report specifies ''Thai robbers'' - perhaps as many as four - yet adds that only one Thai man has been detained. Just what is the truth? Perhaps Bernama journalists should ask their sources.