Alleged torture and threats against two migrant workers suspected of murder on touristic Ko Tao Island suggest poor legal standards and lack of protection for suspects in Thailand.
Two Myanmar migrant workers based on Ko Tao, southern Surat Thani Province, have accused the Thai police of torturing them by pouring hot water on them, beating them, and threatening to electrocute them in order to have them confess to murdering two British backpacker tourists, Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on 15 September.
Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, were caught during a police raid on the Burmese community on Ko Tao on 28 September. They tried to escape because they had no papers.
Last week, the police claimed that the DNA stain from cigarette butts collected from the crime scene matches the DNA of one of the suspects and brought them to re-enact the alleged crime at the scene.
However, many Myanmar migrant workers on Ko Tao reported that the two were tortured under detention and forced to confess to a crime they did not commit.
According to the BBC Thai Service, Aung Myo Thant, a Burmese lawyer who is part of a legal team sent by the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok to represent the accused, confirmed that one of the suspects was assaulted and threatened after refusing to confess to the murders during a police interrogation.
“He didn’t confess when he was in the investigation centre. A police officer hit the side of his face and the interpreter also hit him four times. Then the police threatened to electrocute them [the suspects] and said that no worse thing would happen to them if they confessed. So, they finally confessed as they saw no hope,” The Irrawaddy quoted Aung Myo Thant as saying.
Moreover, Aung Myo Thant observed that the suspects were in great fear and did not clearly say whether they committed the crime or not. They, however, told him that they were smoking and playing guitar approximately 20 metres from the crime scene that day, the BBC Thai service reported.
“Please protect us in accordance with the law.” the Myanmar lawyer quoted one of the suspects, adding that the suspects have signed a paper allowing the embassy’s legal team to represent them in the case.
The police have also detained Maung Maung, another Myanmar migrant worker as a witness in a secret location and are not allowing the press to meet him.
According to Irrawaddy News, several other Myanmar migrant workers who were questioned by the Thai authorities on Ko Tao in connection with the murders told Irrawaddy that they were beaten during questioning. Than Hlaing, one of the six Burmese migrants who were questioned by the Thai police last Thursday, said the group was beaten during interrogation.