The Irrawaddy

Koh Tao Murder Convicts Living in Fear After Thailand Resumes Executions

Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin, left and Win Zaw Htun leave the provincial court in Koh Samui, Thailand on Dec. 24, 2015, after being convicted of the 2014 murders of two British backpackers.

MON STATE — Two Myanmar migrant workers sentenced to death by a Thai court for the murder of two British backpackers are living in constant fear after Thailand resumed executing death row prisoners earlier this year, the head of an NGO assisting migrant workers said.

Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin were detained in 2014 by Thai police for the murder of a British couple on Koh Tao island, and for raping the woman. They were sentenced to death in May 2016 despite their claims that Thai police coerced their confessions. They are currently detained in Bangkok’s Bang Kwang Prison awaiting the result of their final appeal.

According to U Sein Htay, the director of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), Zaw Lin has been under a lot of stress and constantly worried about the possibility of being executed since June, when Thailand put to death its first prisoner in nearly a decade. To make matters worse, Zaw Lin has been held in solitary confinement for more than a month after a fight with a prisoner.

“They are really scared by what they have seen in prison. Especially Zaw Lin, who is in solitary confinement and is left alone with his thoughts; he is really frightened [of being executed],” he said.

U Sein Htay and his team visited Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin in prison on Aug. 22. At first, prison authorities told them they would only be allowed to speak via a video call. However, after repeated requests from the team, the authorities allowed them to meet in person. U Sein Htay said both men told him they fear execution.

The NGO director added that Zaw Lin asked him to inform the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok that he was being held in solitary confinement beyond the one-month punishment period. He said he was being punished for fighting a Thai prisoner who repeatedly cursed his mother.

“He requested that the Myanmar Embassy talk to the Thai prison authorities about transferring him back to a normal cell,” U Sein Htay said.

The MWRN sent a letter to the Myanmar Embassy conveying Zaw Lin’s request, U Sein Htay said.

An official from the Myanmar Embassy usually visits Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun every 90-120 days, but no visits have been made since Zaw Lin’s solitary confinement began.

Zaw Lin also requested urgent support from a team from the Lawyer’s Council of Thailand (LCT) that has been assisting the two migrant workers’ defense in the Koh Tao murder case, asking them to liaise with the Myanmar Embassy to ensure his immediate release from what he claims is his unfair and unlawfully extended solitary confinement.

Andy Hall, international advisers to MWRN and the LCT’s Koh Tao case legal defense team also wrote a letter to the Myanmar Embassy asking it to provide consular assistance to Zaw Lin.

The defense team for the two convicts—comprising members of the LCT and members of labor-rights NGOs—submitted a 319-page appeal to Thailand’s Supreme Court in August 2017.

U Sein Htay said the defense team is still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the appeal.