Bangkok, Aug 8, 2012 (AFP) - A court in Thailand on Wednesday sentenced two Thai men to life imprisonment for the murder of an Australian woman during an attempted robbery on the resort island of Phuket, a court official said.
Michelle Elizabeth Smith, 60, was stabbed in the chest as two men on a motorcycle tried to snatch her bag in June, near her hotel in Phuket Town.
Surasak Suwannachote, 26, and Surin Thadthong, 33, were arrested a few days later after fleeing to the mainland.
"Initially they were sentenced to death but as they confessed the court commuted the sentence to life imprisonment," the official at the court in Phuket told AFP by telephone after a three-day trial.
The victim was part of a group of tour operators visiting the island. One of her travel companions was hospitalised after suffering a cut to her arm.
The death was another blow to Thailand's tourist-friendly image, coming less than a week after two Canadian sisters were found dead in a hotel room on nearby Phi Phi island, showing signs of an extreme toxic reaction.
Thailand is a tourist magnet but its image as the "Land of Smiles" has been tested in recent years by deadly political unrest, devastating floods and concern about theft and other crimes against tourists.