Burmese Suspects in Koh Tao Murders Tortured Under Interrogation: Lawyer

A group of Thai and Burmese lawyers, officials and migrant activists meet with the two Burmese murder suspects on Koh Samui, southern Thailand. (Photo: Min Oo)

A group of Thai and Burmese lawyers, officials and migrant activists meet with the two Burmese murder suspects on Koh Samui, southern Thailand. (Photo: Min Oo)

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Two Burmese migrants currently being detained on Thailand’s Koh Samui were allegedly beaten and threatened by Thai police and an interpreter under interrogation for the murders of two British tourists last month, according to a Burmese lawyer who spoke with the accused.

The two migrants from Burma’s Arakan State, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, are suspected of murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao in Thailand’s Surat Thani province on Sept. 15.

Aung Myo Thant, a Burmese lawyer who is part of a legal team sent by the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok to represent the accused, told The Irrawaddy that Win Zaw Htun was assaulted and threatened after refusing to confess to the murders during a police interrogation.

“He didn’t confess when he was in the investigation center,” Aung Myo Thant said. “A police officer hit the side of his face and the interpreter also hit him four times. Then police threatened to electrocute them [the suspects] and said that no worse thing would happen to them if they confessed. So, they finally confessed as they saw no hope.”

The lawyer said Win Zaw Htun had asked him to “please protect us in accordance with the law.” Aung Myo Thant said the migrants signed a power of attorney document over to the embassy’s legal team, allowing it to represent the accused men in court.

Thai authorities denied a request by the Burmese legal team to meet with another Burmese migrant Maung Maung, who is being held by Thai police as a witness.

“Police told us Maung Maung is not a criminal. They are keeping him to be a witness and provide testimony to the prosecutor. So, they can’t let us meet him. They told us they are keeping him at a hotel,” said Aung Myo Thant. There were unconfirmed reports stating that Maung Maung, who is a friend of the two suspects, was also badly beaten by Thai police.

Several Burmese migrant workers who were among those recently questioned by Thai authorities on Koh Tao in connection with the murders told The Irrawaddy that they were beaten during questioning. Than Hlaing, one of six Burmese migrants who were questioned by Thai police last Thursday, alleged that the group was beaten under interrogation.

The Burmese legal team plans to visit Koh Tao in order to meet with the Burmese community there and collect more information. The team said they are cooperating with the Burmese government and the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok and are acting in accordance with Thai law. Burma’s President Thein Sein will discuss the murder case when he meets Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in Burma later this week.

When contacted by The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, the mother of three Burmese migrant workers who alleged that Thai police poured hot water over them during questioning said she would not let her children speak to the media out of fear for their safety. She said that after the allegation surfaced in the media, Thai police came to warn her children that they would be in trouble if they spoke to the media again.

“We will try our best to help our Burmese people as they are often abused in Thailand,” Aung Myo Thant said. “We also demanded that Thai police protect our citizens in accordance with the law.”

3 Responses to Burmese Suspects in Koh Tao Murders Tortured Under Interrogation: Lawyer

  1. Burmese government must help those scape-goat poor Burmese migrants with full-scale. International pressure should be sought for help in case. Burmese nation wide protest should be done in front of the Thai embassy in Burma. Thai reputation is tarnished by ugly democracy with military coup and human trafficking so their tourist industry is adversely affected by their own people. Thai police is bad reputable one in Asia.

  2. Regarding the torture of Thai police to Burmese two innocent suspects is not a strange case to Thai police. They are in cooperate with mafia gangsters and abused other nations physically. They dared to throw an innocent person from 14 stories high building and the ambulance picked up the body to the hospital immediately. And the interior organs were taken away once the Ambassador arrived there. They have the market for human fresh parts. It is terrible. I have no idea whether police in other countries are the same.

    As a very simple thought from me, how can that two illegal workers to commit that crime ? It is international connection that two British couple were murdered. That is my little knowledge.

    Please fight to the end of the battle.

  3. There is now a global effort to get Thai police to DNA test a young Thai man who resists such tests. Over 50,000 have signed a petition to ask the UK authorities to investigate the case independently. There is a website Facebook.com/CSILA that is examing the evidence through crowd source information. These young men are not alone, and they will be exonerated, they just need to hang on. The world is watching, Thailand.

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