Rights Group Concerned over Arrest of Burmese Migrants in Thai Murder Case

By Saw Yan Naing 28 October 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — A Thailand-based migrant rights group has expressed concern over the arrest of four Burmese migrant workers in the border town of Ranong last week in connection with the brutal murder of a Thai teenager.

The four migrants were led through a crime reenactment by Thai police on Tuesday, accompanied by scores of Thai soldiers and police and a crowd of onlookers.

The migrants, who are all fishermen, are suspects in the stabbing murder of a 19-year-old Thai woman on the evening of Sept. 28 in the southern Thai province of Ranong.

Min Oo, a migrant rights advocate at the Foundation for Education and Development (FED), said one of the accused was arrested on Oct. 20 and the three others on Oct. 24. He said Thai police had been arresting and interrogating many Burmese migrant workers since the murder took place.

Two migrants, who were subsequently released, reported mistreatment during their interrogation, according to Min Oo.

“As this kind of abuse was reported, we are suspicious as to whether the migrants are the real criminals,” said Min Oo, who witnessed the crime re-enactment in Ranong on Tuesday.

On Thai commercial broadcaster Channel 3 on Tuesday night, Thai police claimed that one suspect had confessed to the murder.

Min Oo said his team, along with representatives from the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, had sought to meet the detained suspects, Wai Lin, Moe Zin Aung, Kyaw Soe Win, and Sein Kadone, thus far without success. Two of the migrants are reportedly under the age of 18.

“[Thai police] asked us to come and meet the suspects [on Tuesday]. But when we arrived, they wouldn’t let us meet them. Our group included lawyers and officials from the Burmese Embassy. We had all the official documents from the embassy showing that we represent migrant workers, but we were not permitted,” Min Oo said.

In a separate case, the defense team representing two Burmese migrant workers accused of the murder of two British backpackers on southern Thailand’s Koh Tao last year, issued closing statements to the court in Koh Samui on Monday. A verdict is expected on December 24.

The case gained widespread attention after the two accused, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, alleged they were tortured into a confession. It also 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.