Families of Myanmar Migrant Workers on Death Row Submit Pardon Appeal to Thai King

By Kyaw Kha 25 October 2019

YANGON—Family members of the two Myanmar migrant workers who were controversially sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in Bangkok for killing two British backpackers submitted a letter of appeal to the Thai king on Thursday seeking a royal pardon for the pair.

The Lawyers Council of Thailand, the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok and the convicted pair’s family members submitted the appeal letter on Thursday morning.

“In the appeal letter, we requested that the death sentence be commuted, as the two are young and supporting their widowed mothers,” lawyer U Aung Myo Thant, a legal adviser to the Myanmar Embassy in Thailand, told The Irrawaddy.

U Htoo Chit, the director of the Foundation for Education Development, said the two would not be released, and that at best their death sentences will be commuted.

“Some think [the two] will be acquitted if the king grants a pardon. I have never heard of such a thing. The death sentence will be at best commuted to life imprisonment or long-term imprisonment. I’ve never seen an acquittal [as a result of a royal pardon] in the legal history of Thailand,” said U Htoo Chit in an exclusive interview with The Irrawaddy.

The Koh Samui Court convicted Ko Win Zaw Htun and Ko Zaw Lin—both in their early 20s at the time—of the September 2014 murders of British tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao island and sentenced them to death in December 2015.

The defense team for the two convicts—comprising members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand and members of labor-rights NGOs—submitted an appeal to a higher court in May 2016, but it was rejected.

The defense then took the case to the Supreme Court of Thailand, which also rejected the appeal in August this year. A royal pardon is the last hope for the pair.

Myanmar’s military and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission have both made requests for pardons for the pair.

The case has resulted in widespread criticism of the Thai police, who have been accused of mishandling forensic evidence and torturing the two suspects to coerce confessions.