CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Two Burmese migrants accused of a high-profile double murder in Thailand appealed once again to Burma’s leading lady on Thursday as they prepare for an expedited hearing.
In a personal letter to Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 21 years old, said their families are suffering from lack of income due to their prolonged detention in a prison in Koh Samui, southern Thailand.
“We are poor, so we came to Thailand to work and save money,” the letter read, explaining that both of the accused had been sending money back to Burma to support their parents and grandparents.
The two migrants were arrested on Oct. 2 as the primary suspects in a double-murder on the Thai island of Koh Tao. They were indicted on Dec. 4 following a controversial two-month investigation that critics claim lacked both transparency and evidence.
Both migrant workers from Arakan State in western Burma, they have remained in custody since their arrest. They were apprehended about two weeks after the brutally beaten corpses of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found on a beach at the popular tourist destination in Thailand’s Surat Thani province.
Thai police said the pair had made a confession, but they later renounced it claiming they had been tortured while in custody. Thai police denied allegations of torture.
Charges include the murder of Miller, rape and murder of Witheridge, theft and illegal entry and stay in Thailand. The pair pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The hasty and opaque investigation sparked criticism across the globe, with some observers calling the migrants scapegoats.
Andy Hall, a British activist assisting the duo throughout their trial, delivered their appeal to Suu Kyi’s secretary but has not yet received a response. The Irrawaddy also made several attempts to contact the NLD, but has not yet received a reply.
Hall, who has been researching migrants’ rights and assisting Burmese migrant workers in Thailand for nearly a decade, is involved in a separate lawsuit in Thailand related to his work on defense of labor rights. Hall told the Irrawaddy he thinks “it will be hard [for the accused] to have a fair trial.”
The pair’s defense team is currently preparing for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 26, two months earlier than originally planned, and must prepare their evidence by Dec. 18.