Koh Tao Accused Describes Police Torture as Trial Concludes

By Saw Yan Naing 12 October 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — One of two Burmese migrants on trial for the murder of two British backpackers on a Thai resort island last year has described to the court how he was tortured and sexually abused under interrogation by Thai police.

Wai Phyo, a Burmese migrant worker who along with his compatriot Zaw Lin stands accused of killing David Miller and Hannah Witheridge on Koh Tao in September 2014, gave testimony of alleged mistreated by Thai police to the Koh Samui Provincial court over the weekend.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, British migrant rights activist Andy Hall, who is assisting the accused, described Wai Phyo’s testimony.

“Police arrested [Wai Phyo] and took him to the police station [on Koh Tao]. They took off all his clothes and put him in a very cold air-conditioned room. Then they took a picture of him. They flicked his [genitalia] and they beat him,” Andy Hall said.

“They told him: if you confess, you will stay in prison for two or three years. If you don’t confess, we are going to kill you. You have no passport, you have no right to be in Thailand.”

During the trial, which began in July and ended on Sunday, the defense team has pointed to several flaws in the Thai police investigation, including allegations of misconduct, procedural faults and questionable evidence.

Defence lawyers called upon Thailand’s Central Institute of Forensic Science, headed by Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, to reexamine crucial DNA evidence last month. The institute found that DNA collected from a garden hoe believed to be used in the murders did not match the suspects’ DNA.

The case has shone a light on Thailand’s treatment of its vast migrant workforce, many of whom labor in dangerous industries for little pay and without access to legal recourse. Labor rights activists contend that the two accused have been made scapegoats for the murders.

The verdict in the case will be announced on December 24, Hall wrote in a Facebook post on Monday.