Thai Court Accepts Murder Case Against Burmese Migrants in Ranong

By Nyein Nyein 13 January 2016

A court in Thailand has accepted charges against four Burmese migrants accused of killing a Thai student last year, as family members of the suspects this week traveled to Bangkok to allege police mistreatment of their sons while in custody in Ranong, the southern Thai city where the murder took place.

The four Burmese fisheries workers—two of them just 15 years old—have been in detention since their arrest in October 2015, in connection with the stabbing death of a 19-year-old Thai woman the previous month.

Min Oo, a migrant rights advocate for the Foundation for Education Development, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he had heard from lawyers of the accused that the court in Ranong had decided this week to accept the case against the four Burmese nationals. The provincial court had been given until Monday of next week to decide whether or not to take the case, with legal proceedings for months delayed by police’s failure to compile a compelling body of evidence to support murder charges.

The Burmese family members on Tuesday went to the Thai Royal Police’s Crime Suppression and Anti-Corruption divisions in Bangkok to complain about alleged torture that they say their sons were subjected to by police during detention.

“We brought the issue to the Bangkok police as we want justice,” said Ei Ei Moe, the mother of suspect Moe Zin Aung, one of the minors in detention. “The Thai police interviewed me and I told them what happened on the day after my sons were arrested.”

“They were tortured to confess during interrogation,” she claimed. “I saw the injuries on their necks when I went to meet them for the first time, which was eight days later [in October].”

Moe Zin Aung and his older brother Kyaw Ye, who was later released, were arrested on Oct. 20 and the three others, Kyaw Soe Win, Wai Lin and Sein Kadon, were apprehended four days later.

“The police came to my home on the night of October 21, and they brought my son Moe Zin Aung and told him to give them the knife,” Ei Ei Moe recalled of Thai police’s handling of the investigation. “I said we only have three kitchen knives, which we use to peel onions and fruits. They looked at the knives and said it is not [the murder weapon they were seeking]. And then they went outside but they came back inside the house and took two knives.

“The next day, the police made a search of the sewer canal near my home, also near the shrimp-processing factory, and said they found the knives; but the two of them were taken from my home a night earlier.”

Ei Ei Moe also said her sons’ employer had CCTV footage that proved the two boys were at work when the murder was perpetrated.

“They are innocent teenagers, who love to play with kids,” said the mother of four, who also has two younger daughters.

Her two sons were the household breadwinners and had been working on fishing trawlers for four years at the time of their arrest, typically spending three weeks at sea each month. Returning to shore for four to six days, she said the boys would work as daily wage earners at a shrimp-processing factory—where they were detained in October—to earn extra income.

Ei Ei Moe claimed her eldest son Kyaw Ye, 16, was also tortured during an interrogation before being released.

“We could not ask him anything for two days when he came back, he was so afraid to talk. We didn’t know what the police did to him,” she said.

“Later he said the police beat him; six or seven police surrounded and restrained him. One police officer kneeled down on his chest and the other strangled his throat. His head was hooded with a plastic bag and he fell back; as a result, his pinky finger was twisted, but it has recovered.”

Htoo Chit, director of the Foundation for Education Development, told The Irrawaddy that the families also brought their concerns to the Thailand Human Rights Commission, and the commission’s representatives are travelling on Wednesday to Ranong to intervene in the case.

The Foundation for Education Development is assisting the accused in the case, providing legal and counseling support together with Thai human rights lawyers, while Burmese tycoon Zaw Zaw’s Ayeyarwady Foundation is supporting them financially.

Acceptance of the murder case by the Ranong provincial court this week comes less than a month after a court farther southeast in Thailand’s Koh Samui found two Burmese migrants guilty of a high-profile double murder. The Dec. 24 verdict and attendant death sentence for the two accused sparked days of protests in Rangoon amid doubts about the integrity of the investigation and court proceedings.