Burma’s Rights Body Calls on Thai Counterpart to Assist Koh Tao Accused

By The Irrawaddy 29 December 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Amid ongoing protests in Burma against the sentencing of two Burmese migrants to death for murder in a Thai court last week, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) has called on its Thai counterpart to support the defendants’ appeals process.

A Koh Samui Court on Thursday sentenced migrants Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo to death for the killing of two British backpackers, David Miller and Hannah Witheridge, on Koh Tao in September last year—a high profile case that has attracted significant controversy amid allegations Thai police mishandled evidence and mistreated the accused.

In a letter to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, signed by MNHRC chair Win Mra on Monday, the commission requested that the defendants’ be accorded “the rights they are entitled to; that fair and equal justice be meted out to them by the Thai Court; that they are accorded equal protection of the law without any discrimination and the enjoyment of the right to life.”

The commission cited reports of several troubling aspects of the investigation, including over the forensic evidence, that there were no eyewitnesses and that the accused had allegedly been tortured during police interrogations.

Many Burmese have reacted with anger to the verdict, with hundreds protesting outside the Thai Embassy in Rangoon over consecutive days since Friday, and in several Thai-Burma border towns.

The Thai Embassy announced on Sunday that its consular section would be closed from Monday to Wednesday due to the ongoing demonstrations.

Other Burmese officials, including army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, information minister Ye Htut, President’s Office Minister Zaw Htay and Burmese Ambassador to Thailand Win Maung have expressed hope the verdict will be thoroughly reviewed.