Amnesty Calls For Investigation Into Torture Allegations on Koh Tao

By Migrant Workers, Saw Yan Naing & Kyaw Kha 8 October 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment by Thai police during the investigation into the murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao last month.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the London-based rights group called on Thai authorities to “ensure an independent and thorough investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by the police, and respect the right to a fair trial” during the murder probe.

The statement came after reports that Thai police abused and threatened two Burmese migrant workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, who are suspected of murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on the island in the early hours of Sept. 15. The two suspects are currently being detained on Koh Samui.

Yesterday, The Irrawaddy reported that one of the migrants told Burmese lawyer Aung Myo Thant, who is part of a legal team sent by the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok to represent the accused, that he was beaten and threatened with electrocution after refusing to confess to the murders during a police interrogation.

“The pressure to be seen to be solving an appalling crime that has garnered considerable attention should not result in the violation of rights, including to a fair trial,” Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme director, said. “All suspects should also be guaranteed their rights to a fair trial—which is of particular importance in a crime that could carry a death sentence.”

The British newspaper The Guardian also reported that photographic evidence, seen by the newspaper, of the alleged abuse of three other Burmese migrant workers who said they had been scalded with boiling water during a police interrogation, had been passed to the British ambassador to Thailand Mark Kent.

At a press conference in Bangkok on Tuesday, Thai police strongly denied accusations of torture or ill-treatment. “I confirm that there was no abuse of any of the suspects,” lead investigator Maj Gen Suwat Chaengyodsook was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post.

Meanwhile, the Burmese legal team sent to assist the accused and investigate other claims of abuses, said that Burmese migrants on Koh Tao were afraid to meet and talk openly with the group, while some had seemingly been prevented from doing so.

“When we arrived [on Koh Tao], we couldn’t call some migrants that we have regular contact with,” said Aung Myo Thant. “Some said Thai police [had] seized their phones.”

The lawyer added: “It seemed that all of the migrants we met were afraid to speak openly because local Thai authorities accompanied us. It seemed that they acted in accordance with what they were ordered.”

The legal team were able to meet with another Burmese migrant, Maung Maung, who Thai police claimed they were holding as a witness. However, the Director of the Myanmar Association in Thailand, Kyaw Thaung, who is also a member of the legal team, told The Irrawaddy that Maung Maung didn’t witness the murder as he had left his two friends, the accused, at around 1 am on Sept. 15 to go to bed.

“He said his friend [Win Zaw Htun] came back to his residence [on the morning of Sept. 15] and went to bed as usual,” said Kyaw Thaung. “He said his friends are not violent characters and doesn’t believe [that they are the killers].”