Taken on: 17th May, 2009. Copyright: All Rights Reserved - See NathanChor's page of Flickr

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The Malay word "tarutao" means old, mysterious and primitive, and today Ko Tarutao retains these qualities even though it's been bisected by a long path of blazing white concrete.

Due to its rugged terrain, Ko Tarutao was once where Thailand kept many of its convicted criminals, and more than 3,000 were imprisoned here in the 1930s and '40s. Common prisoners were held at Talo Wow on the island's east coast, but important political prisoners -- including a son of Rama VII who was considered a threat to the King -- were interned at Talo Udang at the island's far southern tip.

During World War ll the prisoners were largely forgotten, and some 700 perished from malaria and starvation. Those who survived became feared pirates who looted merchant ships in the Straits of Malacca, adding to the island's notorious history. It's still possible to explore the ruins, which have been largely reclaimed by jungle.

Thanks to its ... Read our complete Ko Tarutao travel guide

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