Parents Seek Separate Inquiry Into Koh Tao Murders

By Saw Yan Naing 5 November 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The parents of two Burmese murder suspects arrived back in Burma on Tuesday after submitting a petition to Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), demanding a separate investigation into the killing of two British tourists on the southern Thai island of Koh Tao.

The parents of the accused were greeted by a throng of supporters at Rangoon International Airport, where they told journalists that they would not be returning soon to their hometown in Arakan State, and would instead stay in Rangoon to follow developments in the case. Their sons, Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, are being detained on Koh Samui island in Thailand’s Surat Thani province.

Tun Tun Htike, the father of Win Zaw Htun, told media at Rangoon Airport that he had a chance to meet and talk to his son on Koh Samui. The parents of the accused also thanked those who have offered their support.

Along with Thai lawyers, officials from the Burmese Embassy, and human and labor rights activists, the parents went to the office of the DSI, a department of Thailand’s Ministry of Justice, in Bangkok on Monday.

The petition documents, demanding an independent inquiry into the double murder, were received by officials at the DSI office.

It was not immediately clear if jurisdiction would be transferred to the DSI, which operates independently of the Royal Thai Police, if the department took on the case.

Aung Myo Thant, a Burmese lawyer assigned by the Burmese Embassy to help the accused, told The Irrawaddy that allegations by the accused of physical abuse and threats during interrogation had prompted their parents to call on the DSI.

“It is becoming obvious that the accused were abused. Led by the Lawyers Council of Thailand, we went to the DSI office and asked for another investigation as abuses on the two migrants have become more obvious,” said Aung Myo Thant.

Previously, Thai Royal Police investigators said the two Burmese migrant workers had confessed to the killing of two British tourists, Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, whose bodies were founded on a Koh Tao beach on Sept. 15. Doubts have been growing, however, over the current investigation, which is being conducted solely by the Thai Royal Police.

Concerns have also mounted that the two Burmese migrants might be “scapegoats,” a claim that Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has denied.

Prayuth on Oct. 29 said the two accused men would be allowed to fight the case, and indicated that they would be also given the opportunity to retake a DNA test.

The accused’s parents last week submitted a petition to the Thai Human Rights Commission, in which they asked the commission to look into allegations that the two young men were forced into their confessions.

Surapong Kongchantuk of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, who accompanied the parents to the DSI office, told reporters that the DSI was the only force that the accused men could rely on to conduct a credible investigation.

On Monday, Thailand’s Human Rights Commission said Thai police had failed to respond to requests for their participation in an inquiry underway into law enforcement’s handling of the murders.

Dr. Nirun Pitakwatchara, chairman of the commission, told reporters at a press conference in Bangkok that police had failed to show up for the second time in less than a week after being invited by the commission to take questions before the accused’s parents.

Additional reporting by Kyaw Kha from Bangkok.