Myanmar wants Thailand to reopen Koh Tao double murder probe

Myanmar has officially called for Thai authorities to reopen the investigation into the murder of two British tourists for which two Myanmar citizens have been arrested as there are "many unanswered questions". -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Myanmar has officially called for Thai authorities to reopen the investigation into the murder of two British tourists for which two Myanmar citizens have been arrested as there are "many unanswered questions". -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Myanmar has officially called for Thai authorities to reopen the investigation into the murder of two British tourists for which two Myanmar citizens have been arrested as there are "many unanswered questions".

Lawyer Aung Myo Thant told the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) that the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok had filed the request with the Justice Ministry on Monday on the basis that suspects Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun had allegedly confessed to the crimes under duress.

The men, both migrant workers in their 20s, were charged with the murder of David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23. The tourists' battered bodies were found on Thailand's southern resort island of Koh Tao on Sept 15. Post-mortem examinations showed that both suffered severe head wounds and Ms Witheridge was raped.

Police claimed that DNA taken from Witheridge matched the two suspects and insisted that they be prosecuted.

But last week the men retracted their confessions, saying they had been coerced by force into doing so.

"The kids [Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun] have told the Thai human rights commission, the lawyers, our embassy team and their parents on every occasion that they were beaten by police," said the lawyer.

"Therefore, we request that a special team be formed to reinvestigate the case. We presented a written letter of request to a ministry official," he added.

Officials from the embassy along with the suspects' parents met with members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand and the kingdom's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to discuss the matter, recounted Aung Myo Thant, who was also at the meeting.

The NHRC said recently that the suspects had been tortured during police interrogation to get them to confess the crimes of raping and killing the tourists. However, police insisted that the suspects had confessed of their own free will and refused to provide any details of the interrogation to the NHRC.

"The (Thai) Human Rights Commission requested the Thai Lawyers Council and us to present any information we may have," Kyaw Thaung, a member of the Myanmar Embassy's team, told DVB on telephone. Kyaw Thaung is also a member of the Myanmar Association in Thailand.

"They also asked for any evidence that might contradict the DNA tests. We exchanged information about the details of the case."