Thai Court Sets Final Appeal Deadline for Koh Tao Murder Case

By Kyaw Kha 21 April 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — A Thai court has accepted the final possible request to extend the appeal deadline for two Burmese migrant workers sentenced to death for the murder of a pair of British backpackers on Thailand’s Koh Tao island in 2014.

The court accepted the request from the Lawyers Council of Thailand on Tuesday, moving the deadline to May 23, said Aung Myo Thant, a lawyer for an investigation team formed by the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok.

“We have requested an extension for the appeal deadline because we have not yet finished gathering all the information we need for the case. We will continue gathering information since the request has now been accepted. But the court has warned that this is the last time [that such a request would be granted],” Aung Myo Thant told The Irrawaddy.

This is the fourth time the lawyers, acting on behalf of the convicted Burmese migrant workers, have requested an extension since the initial one-month deadline to appeal their verdict, which expired on Jan. 24.

On March 25, members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand and the Burmese Embassy investigation team went to the prison where Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin are being held to collect information, but the interpreter was denied access to the prison, thereby delaying the process and prompting lawyers to request an extension for the appeal deadline.

“Lawyers were allowed to see the two men, but the interpreter was not,” said Aung Myo Thant, adding that this was “legally wrong.”

“The defendants are Burmese, and the members of the Lawyers Council of Thailand are unable to communicate with them directly without an interpreter,” Aung Myo Thant said, while noting that the two appellants appeared to be in good health.

A court in Koh Samui sentenced Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 22, to death on Dec. 24, 2015, for allegedly killing two British backpackers, David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the island of Koh Tao. The murder occurred in September 2014.

The subsequent investigation by Thai authorities has been plagued by claims of malfeasance, including evidentiary irregularities and claims by the defendants that they were tortured while in detention.