Deadline Approaches for Supreme Court Appeal in Koh Tao Murder Case 

By Nyein Nyein 16 August 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – Five months after the District Court of Appeal in Koh Samui, Thailand, turned down an appeal for two Burmese migrant workers sentenced to death, the legal defense team for the pair are ready now to file an appeal to the Thai Supreme Court in Bangkok.

Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin—both in their early 20s—were sentenced by the Koh Samui Township Court in Dec. 2015 for charges they have denied, involving the 2014 deaths of British nationals Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao island.

The legal defense team—made up of members of the Thai Lawyer Council, legal advisers from the Myanmar government, and members of non-government organizations advocating for labor rights—would have to file the Supreme Court appeal no later than the Aug. 21 deadline. They have been preparing for the appeal since early March 2017 and have requested monthly extensions to complete the procedure.

U Aung Myo Thant, a defense lawyer in the case, said they are likely to file the appeal on Friday. “If not, the appeal would be submitted next Monday, on the due date,” he said.

The defense team expects that once they submit this appeal, the Supreme Court ruling will come within a year’s time.

Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin are reportedly in good health and have met with family members and supporters at least twice since the last appeal application, according to the defense team’s U Min Min, representing the Foundation for Education Development.

“We are optimistic about the upcoming appeal and hope that it will not be dismissed this time, as we have more strong evidence for the case,” U Min Min said.

Their first appeal to the district court was submitted in 2016 and included nearly 200 pages of supporting documents, in which the defense team argued that the DNA evidence which led to the men’s conviction was inadmissible, because it had not been collected or analyzed according to international standards.

Lawyer U Aung Myo Thant said that while a death penalty conviction must be particularly solid, the allegations against the two migrant workers have brought up inconsistencies in the case and have led to a questioning of the evidence presented by the prosecution.

The defense team is also preparing to file an appeal for a royal pardon from the Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, but whether they will need to submit it will depend on the results of the upcoming Supreme Court appeal.

“If the two men are still in prison even after the appeal at the Thai Supreme court, we will have to file appeal for a pardon from the King of Thailand within a month,” U Aung Myo Thant explained.

Still, the lawyer said that they hope to win their case through legal efforts, as he insists that the two men in question “have no relation to the 2014 murders.”