Respected Thai Forensics Specialist Criticizes Koh Tao Murder Investigation

By Migrant Workers, Saw Yan Naing 9 October 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — One of Thailand’s most well-known forensic pathologists, Dr. Porntip Rojanasunan, has criticized the Thai police investigation that led to the arrest of two Burmese migrants for the murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao last month.

Porntip, who is director-general of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, told the Manager news agency that the investigation into the murders of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao in Thailand’s Surat Thani province, was weak and the results not fully trustworthy as police did not involve forensic specialists at the crime scene.

She added that since the police force handled the investigation on their own, the Thai public doubted the outcome of the case.

The two Burmese migrants suspected of committing the killings, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, are currently being detained on Koh Samui. On Tuesday, The Irrawaddy reported that Win Zaw Htun told a Burmese lawyer that he was beaten and threatened with electrocution after refusing to confess to the murders during a police interrogation.

On Wednesday, Surat Thani-based public prosecutors returned the police’s 850-page investigation report on the murders back to the officers who submitted it, asking them to provide “more crucial information” and to “fix certain flaws,” according to Thailand’s English-language newspaper The Nation.

Meanwhile, British Ambassador to Thailand Mark Kent said via his Twitter account on Wednesday that he had called Thailand’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sihasak Phuangketkeow and Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn to discuss the investigation.

When contacted by The Irrawaddy via email, the ambassador said he was “not able to comment on the details of the case” at present.

Andy Hall, a British migrant rights activist who is monitoring the Koh Tao case, met with the British ambassador on Wednesday.

“We shared information with him [the UK ambassador] that we found on the mission. He said that the British government was very concerned about the human rights aspect in this case and to ensure that there is justice, a fair trial, and… no misconduct by the police,” Hall said.

Hall raised concerns over information being released to the media about the meeting between the accused and a Burmese legal team, saying that it could undermine the legal process and the suspects’ right to a fair trial.

“We are very concerned about individual people who met with the accused and keep releasing the information publicly. This is very, very dangerous for a fair trial,” Hall said.

“With our mission, we are trying to get [both suspects] access to a fair trial and a quality and independent lawyer. This is not an issue of politics, it is an issue of justice. The decision will be made by the court based on fact.”