The Irrawaddy

Father of Koh Tao Accused Dies in Arakan State

Tun Tun Htike, who died on Thursday morning, speaks to reporters at Rangoon International Airport last November. (Photo: Sai Zaw / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON— The father of Win Zaw Htun, one of two Burmese suspects in the Koh Tao murder case, passed away early Thursday in Arakan State.

Tun Tun Htike, who was in his 50s, was diagnosed with a brain tumor three months ago at Rangoon General Hospital. He had been receiving treatment at the Pun Hlaing Hospital.

“We just heard the news that he passed away,” said Tin Htoo Aung, chairman of the Arakan National Network. “He went back to Ka Pi Chaung village in Kyaukphyu as his son’s trial was expected to take some time, and died there.”

He added that funeral rites and cremation will be performed today in accord with village custom.

Win Zaw Htun (also known as Wai Phyo) and Zaw Lin, both migrant workers in their early 20s, stand accused of the Sept. 15 murder of two tourists on the island of Koh Tao. The pair remain in custody.

Andy Hall, a labor rights activist involved in efforts to support the pair’s defense team, said that Win Zaw Htun would be notified of his father’s death during a visit at Koh Samui prison tomorrow.

“We are organizing to notify Wai Phyo of this news tomorrow during our regular humanitarian visit program to the accused at the Koh Samui prison, as prison authorities advised us today that family or friends should be the ones to break the news to him during visiting times,” Hall told The Irrawaddy by email.

Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin initially confessed to the killings but the pair later renounced their statements, claiming they had been tortured while in custody. Thai police have denied the torture allegations.

On Apr. 30, the Koh Samui District Court has allowed a reexamination of forensic material from the crime scene by Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan, a rights activist, media personality and the chief forensic pathologist at the Thai Ministry of Justice. Dr Pornthip has been critical of aspects of the initial police investigation.

The Migrant Worker Rights Network last week launched an online fundraising campaign to help cover trial costs for the Koh Tao accused, which has so far raised over US$3160 out of a $15,800 goal.

“We expect the case to cost at least $70000, our estimates for basic fair trial needs,” said Hall. “[There has been] no news for some time from the Myanmar embassy or the Myanmar investigation team so we hope to see their increased engagement and support again soon. A lot of assistance was promised by the Myanmar government so we hope they will follow through on those promises.”

The men will return to court on Jul. 8 for an expected 18 day trial, which will conclude in September. A verdict in the case is expected in October.