August 19, 2016

HELP OUR BOYS — Rights group seeks govt support for Koh Tao murder suspects

U Chit Htoo, a member of the special investigations team, speaks at a press conference in Yangon on Thursday.
U Chit Htoo, a member of the special investigations team, speaks at a press conference in Yangon on Thursday.

A special investigations team representing two Myanmar migrant workers on trial for murder in Thailand have called on the Myanmar government to exert diplomatic pressure on Thailand to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun are accused of killing two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao in September 2014.
“The defence witnesses have already proved in court that the total lack of DNA evidence means the two Myanmar nationals are innocent,” said U Htoo Chit, a member of the special investigation team, which is comprised of Thai lawyers and Myanmar human rights activists.
“The outcome of this case will be watched by many and it will speak volumes about the integrity of the Thai government and judiciary. The Myanmar government should put more diplomatic effort into the case before the verdict is announced,” he said during a press conference in Yangon on Thursday.
The investigation team quoted testimony given by Porntip Rojanasunan, the forensics expert who found that the DNA of two Myanmar defendants does not match the DNA found on the murder weapon of the two British backpackers.
The team also pointed out that torture and intimidation are commonly used in Thai police investigations, quoting the testimony of several defence witnesses, including a representative of the National Human Rights Commission, a lawyer who interviewed the defendants and a fellow migrant worker.
The last hearings for the two Myanmar migrant workers, who are accused of the murder of David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, is slated for 10 and 11 October.
A Thai judge granted the defence team’s request for additional two days in order to give the defendants more time to speak in court.
The verdict is expected to be announced within two months of the last hearing, according to the special investigations team.
“They were threatened by Thai police during interrogation: they were told that their hands and legs would be cut off and their bodies thrown into a river if they didn’t confess,” U Chit Htoo said.
On behalf of the investigation team, U Chit Htoo expressed thanks to the Myanmar government for its assistance, saying the Kao Tao murder case is the first such case in which the Myanmar government has provided substantive assistance to its nationals abroad.
However he added that it is a weakness on the part of the Myanmar government, which is responsible for protecting the rights of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand, that there is no specific budget for helping Myanmar migrant workers. He said there are just one or two diplomats assigned to assist three million migrants in Thailand.
“Regardless, we have made a great breakthrough in terms of helping our migrant workers in Thailand. We’ve sent a clear message to Thai police and factory bosses that they cannot treat Myanmar citizens with impunity,” U Chit Htoo said.


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