Press Release: 26th October 2015
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1. K. Nakhon Chompuchat (Head Defense Team Lawyer email@example.com +66(0)818 473086)
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3. Ko Sein Htay (MWRN President email@example.com +66(0)946 792478)
A team of pro-bono lawyers working under the Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT) to defend two Myanmar migrant workers accused of the rape and murder of a female British tourist and the murder of a British male tourist on Koh Tao Island, Thailand in September 2014 today submitted a 56 page closing statement as an opinion for Koh Samui Court to consider in issuing a judgement in the case. The written statement is the final part of a one year effort by a core team of 7 Thai lawyers supported by Burmese, Australian and British translators, assistants and advisors to ensure a fair trial and adequate defense for the accused. Case witness testimony that ended on 11th October 2015 after 21 days of witness hearings involving 34 witnesses and thousands of pages of evidence has already been widely publicised by the media. Koh Samui Court has appointed both parties to the case on 24th December 2015 to hear a verdict.
Hannah Witheridge (23) and David Miller (24) were murdered on 15th September 2014 on Koh Tao, a tourist island in the Gulf of Thailand. The murder investigation was widely criticised both domestically and internationally due to alleged mishandling of forensic evidence and alleged torture both of the two accused and migrant workers living on Koh Tao Island. The challenges faced to Thailand’s law enforcement and justice systems in this case also cast a serious shadow over the safety of tourism in Thailand.
On 2nd October 2014, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo (Win Zaw Htun), 22 year old migrant workers from Rakhine state in Myanmar, were arrested for immigration offences. Additional charges were then laid against them during questioning for rape, murder and theft related to the killings of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. The two accused signed confessions during interrogation and also publicly and during questioning re-enacted the crimes.
On 14th October, at a first advance witness hearing in the case, both accused then retracted their confessions to LCT lawyers. Later on defense lawyers received information that the two accused alleged beatings and torture were used during their detention, prior to sending on for questioning by investigation officials, to elicit their confessions made involuntarily. The Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) and rights groups called on the LCT to provide trained lawyers for the accused to ensure they could adequately defend themselves against all the charges so as to ensure a fair trial and also importantly to guard against a potential miscarriage of justice in such a highly publicised and tragic case.
A two month delay in prosecuting the accused resulted from extensive media and diplomatic attention towards the case in addition to calls for justice by the accused, their families and the wider public. This resulted in further questioning of the accused that confirmed that both maintained their complete innocence and insisted their confessions came about involuntary as a result of torture. Multiple criminal charges were then filed against Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo on 4th December 2014 by the Koh Samui prosecutor at Koh Samui Court. The judges heeded calls for adequate time to prepare a thorough defense for the accused and, after a number of preliminary evidence exchange hearings, a 21-day trial eventually commenced on 8th July 2015. Continue reading “#Koh #Tao #Murder #Case #Legal #Defense #Team#Closing #Statement”