Britons' killings on Thai island: Myanmar men retract confessions, lawyers want UK DNA test

Two workers from Myanmar (wearing helmets and handcuffs), suspected of killing two British tourists on Koh Tao last month, stand near Thai police officers during a re-enactment of the alleged crime on Oct 3, 2014. The lawyers of the two men have
Two workers from Myanmar (wearing helmets and handcuffs), suspected of killing two British tourists on Koh Tao last month, stand near Thai police officers during a re-enactment of the alleged crime on Oct 3, 2014. The lawyers of the two men have asked for the British police to conduct independent DNA tests in the case, as they believe their clients are innocent. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KOH TAO, Thailand (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The lawyers of the two Myanmar men charged with the murders of two British tourists on Koh Tao Island have asked Thailand's National Human Rights Commission (NRHC) and the Myanmar Embassy in the kingdom to push for the British police to conduct independent DNA tests in the case, as they believe their clients are innocent.

Myanmar nationals Zaw Rin and Win have retracted their earlier confessions to police. Their lawyers are confident the charges against the two men will be dropped.

The NHRC, meanwhile, is sending a team to examine the crime scene.

The latest twist in the murder case came after Myanmar President Thein Sein asked visiting Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Friday to ensure a "clean and fair" investigation.

On social media sites, many users refused to accept the result of the police investigation and raised the possibility that the two Myanmar nationals may be scapegoats in the murders of Mr David Miller, 24, and Ms Hannah Witheridge, 23. Their bodies were found on the island on Sept 15.

General Somyot Pumpanmuang, the police chief, has insisted many times that the police did not frame the accused.

The NHRC is seeking to have forensic experts dispatched to Koh Tao to examine the case in detail.

Police Major-General Pavin Pongsirisin, the head of the investigation, said yesterday that he was confident everything was fair and police had submitted all the papers relating to the investigation to the Office of the Attorney-General.

In a related development, British Ambassador to Thailand Mark Kent urged Thai social media users not to spread disturbing photos relating to the case or passport photos and details of the victims, saying their families had already suffered a lot.

He made the request via his Thai-language blog on Friday. He also urged the Thai mainstream mass media not to prejudge the accused and let the justice process run its course.

Mr Kent said the Thai media, including the social media, should be "responsible as well as free".

Regional Public Prosecution 8 deputy director-general Thawatchai Siangjaew said he had not been informed yet about the police's additional interrogation of the two suspects in prison, while a deputy chief of Provincial Police Region 8 denied the suspects had retracted their confession.

Mr Thawatchai said prosecutors would consider for indictment mainly the evidence in the case, including closed-circuit television footage from the crime scene and witness testimonies. The retraction of confession by suspects would not influence their decision to indict them, he added.

Prosecutors are still waiting for the police investigators' submission of the amended case report. He said once the report is submitted, the prosecutors should be able to make a decision within seven days.

Meanwhile, tourists continue to flock to Koh Tao under the watchful eye of tourist police and volunteers. The number of tourists is not high, but it is still the low season, with strong ocean currents and monsoon rains.