Defense Lawyers Expect Ruling Soon in Koh Tao Murder Appeal

By Nyein Nyein 30 November 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Defense lawyers for two Burmese migrant workers—who were sentenced to death last December, after convictions in the murder of two British backpackers on Thailand’s Koh Tao Island—say they expect a ruling from the Thai Court of Appeals by January.

The Burmese defendants, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, also known as Wai Phyo, were arrested in October 2014. The pair were tried on seven charges, including rape and murder, in the deaths of British nationals Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24.

During the highly controversial investigation, Thai police allegedly beat the two suspects and forced them to falsely confess. They were found guilty by the Koh Samui Court in 2015.

In May, Thailand’s Regional Court of Appeal 8 agreed to consider a 198-page appeal argument from the defense team. Much of that document disputes the acceptability of DNA evidence that was presented at trial. The court has also heard arguments from Thai prosecutors.

“We expect the judgment from the Court of Appeals might come at the end of December or early January,” said Burmese lawyer U Aung Myo Thant, who represents the defendants.

The court will deliver a ruling to the defendants by letter, in accordance with Thai legal procedure, the lawyer said, so he maintains regular contact with the two young men while they are held at Bangkok’s Bang Kwang central prison. He added that the defendants are in good health.

“We are working in accordance with the Thai laws, and we believe our appeal evidence will be sufficient to prove that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun are actually innocent,” he said.

The Burmese embassy in Bangkok continues to support the defendants in their legal proceeding, and the defense team is prepared to exhaust its appeal options.

“Depending on the appeals court verdict, if it is not what we are expecting, then we will take this case to the Supreme Court of Thailand,” said U Aung Myo Thant.