Thai Police Absent From Inquiry Into Koh Tao Torture Claims

By Nyein Nyein & Kyaw Kha 3 November 2014

BANGKOK/CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The chairman of Thailand’s Human Rights Commission says Thai police have failed to respond to multiple requests for their participation in an inquiry underway into law enforcement’s handling of a double murder on Koh Tao island, which has been pinned on two Burmese migrants.

The commission invited police to take questions before the accused’s parents at their office in Bangkok on Monday, but Dr. Nirun Pitakwatchara, the chairman of the commission, told reporters at a press conference that police had failed to show up for the second time in less than a week. Out of four meetings that the commission has convened, police have only sent representatives to the first two.

Kyaw Thaung, a member of the Burmese Embassy’s special team assisting the accused, told The Irrawaddy over the phone that “the chairman of the Thai HRC said he is deeply sorry for the Thai police’s lack of cooperation on the case.”

The Thai Human Rights Commission accepted a petition submitted by the accused’s parents last week, in which they ask the commission to look into allegations that the two men were forced into their confessions. The commission is expected to travel to the island where the murders took place this week. The badly beaten bodies of British tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found on the beach in Koh Tao in the early hours of Sept. 15.

On Monday before the press conference, the Thai HRC spoke with members of the Burmese Embassy’s special team and a group of Thai lawyers who are closely assisting the accused, as well as their parents.

The accused, Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 21, have been detained at Koh Samui prison since early October.

The Thai police’s handling of the case and allegations of forced confessions and torture have sparked criticism worldwide, raising suspicions that the Burmese migrants were being used as scapegoats.

Confirming that the suspects would be given the opportunity to take another DNA test, Thailand Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha said Wednesday that the men would be allowed “to fight the case, however they want.”

Meanwhile, Zaw Lin has asked for assistance from Burma’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The two didn’t commit the crime, but they were beaten and forced to confess. Zaw Lin has asked Daw Aung San Suu Kyi if she would help seek justice for them if possible,” said Moe Wai, the interpreter for the embassy’s special delegation dealing with the case.

Zaw Lin is a supporter of Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD), according to his Facebook profile.

Htoo Chit, executive director of the Thailand-based Foundation for Education and Development (FED), has also called for Suu Kyi’s intervention, saying her involvement would help to ensure justice and rule of law for Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.

“In our view, the case is not the problem of Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun alone, but it is critically important for the rule of law for millions of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand,” Htoo Chit told The Irrawaddy.

He said that while President Thein Sein and commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing have met with Thai authorities on behalf of the two accused, Suu Kyi—who chairs the parliamentary committee on rule of law and tranquility—should cooperate with the Thai government to demonstrate to the international community that she is concerned about the plight of Burmese migrant workers.

Suu Kyi was welcomed by thousands of Burmese nationals when she visited Bangkok in May 2012. In her speech to the crowd, she promised she would seek to protect the legal rights of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.