Thai Court Allows Review of DNA Evidence in Koh Tao Murders

By San Yamin Aung 30 April 2015

RANGOON — A court on the Thai island of Koh Samui has agreed to allow a review of the DNA test results for two Burmese migrant workers accused of murdering a pair of British tourists in Thailand last year, after the defendants’ lawyers made the request at a reconvening of their trial on Thursday.

Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both migrant workers in their early 20s, are accused of the double murder on Koh Tao island on Sept. 15. The case has captured international headlines amid concerns about the investigation’s credibility stemming in part from the defendants’ allegation that they were tortured while in police custody.

“We requested to verify that the DNA results were tested in accordance with proper procedures at today’s trial, and the court approved it this evening,” Aung Myo Thant, a Burmese lawyer who is part of a Burmese Embassy team supporting the defendants, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

He said the defense asked for the review because prosecutors were using an alleged DNA match between the defendants and evidence collected at the crime scene to underpin their case, along with the two men’s alleged confession, which they have since retracted.

The two migrants, both from Burma’s Arakan State, were arrested in October by Thai authorities, two weeks after the battered bodies of two British tourists were found on a beach in Koh Tao. They were indicted in December following a controversial two-month investigation that critics said both lacked transparency and sufficient evidence.

Police said Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin had confessed to the killings but the men later renounced it, claiming they had been tortured while in custody. Thai police have denied the torture allegations.

Andy Hall, a migrant labor rights activist who has also been assisting the defendants in the case, posted on his Facebook on Thursday that the DNA tests would be reviewed, along with physical and forensics evidence, by the Thai Ministry of Justice’s Central Institute of Forensic Science.

Aung Myo Thant said the Burmese Embassy team was working with the Thai National Human Rights Commission and Lawyers Council of Thailand to help the defendants.

Meanwhile, Rangoon’s Kyauktada Township Court on Wednesday sentenced three activists from the Democracy Forces group to three months in prison for holding a protest related to the case without permission. The trio of demonstrators had called for justice for the two accused Burmese migrants during the visit of Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to Rangoon in October.

They were charged under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law.