Burmese Migrants ‘Wrongfully Accused’ in Murder Case: Rights Group

By Nyein Nyein 18 November 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Nearly one month after four Burmese migrant workers were arrested in connection with the murder of a Thai teenager, a migrants’ rights group is saying the suspects have been wrongfully accused.

Wai Lin, Moe Zin Aung, Kyaw Soe Win and Sein Kadone, all of whom work in Thailand’s fisheries industry, were arrested last month in connection with the stabbing death of a 19-year-old Thai woman on Sept. 28 in the southern Thai province of Ranong. Though the suspects remain in Thai detention, police do not have enough evidence to bring their case to court, according to Htoo Chit, director of the Foundation for Education Development (FED) and a member of the Burmese Embassy-led Protecting Committee for Burmese Migrants Staying in Thailand, which aims to coordinate and provide assistance to migrants in need.

“Their employer witnessed that they were at work when the murder happened,” Htoo Chit told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, adding that the four men’s employer also provided CCTV footage to law enforcement authorities as additional evidence in the case.

As for why his team has decided to represent the four migrant workers, Htoo Chit said their support was because the men have been “wrongfully accused.” The four men were made to go through a crime scene re-enactment on Oct. 27. Htoo Chit, however, believes that this was a forced act and that the suspects are in no way linked to the young woman’s brutal murder.

Their case is the second in the last year to throw into sharp relief the fraught situation faced by many of Thailand’s migrant workers, who often take on dangerous employment without adequate pay or legal protection. Last year the murder of two British backpackers on southern Thailand’s Koh Tao island sent shockwaves through the country and then, as with the latest case, the finger of blame was pointed at Burmese laborers, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo. A verdict in the Koh Tao case is due on Dec. 24.

FED is expected to meet with the four accused in Ranong, as well as Thai lawyers, on Thursday.