Two Burmese recant confessions on Koh Tao rape and murders due to the use of Torture

( Hong Kong, October 23, 2014) 20th October 2014, The Human Rights Commission of the Lawyer Council of Thailand set up a working group to provide legal aid to Win or Win Saw Thun and Zaw Lin, the two Burmese suspects in the murder of David Miller, 24 and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23 in Koh Tao, Surat Thani province on 15 September 2014. Mr Surapong Kong-janteuk has been appointed as the head of the the mission to provide legal aid and other assistance regarding human rights violation in criminal legal procedure along with several other senior attorneys.

On 21st October 2014, attorneys from the above working group has met and conducted a fact-finding mission with the two suspects. Koh Samui Prison has arranged a meeting room for the suspects to have a private and confidential meeting and for fact-finding with the attorneys for over five hours.  The two suspects requested their attorneys to lodge a petition to the public attorney of Koh Samui Province. The suspects have denied the charges associated with the murder and rape of the two British tourists and said they had been forced to confess under the police custody. Additionally, they said to be tortured by some of police officials and the official's interpreter in order to extract confessions on 2nd October 2014. Afterwards, the police official had requested  the arrest warrants and had directed the suspects to the crime scene reenactment on 3rd October 2014.   The reenactment has been  covered by various media such as  on televisions, printed media and online media. The complaint is sought to seek a further investigation by the public attorney into the use of torture to obtain  the confessions and to accept the suspects's witnesses in order to ensure justice and to bring the real perpetrators to the judicial process.

Under the principle of fair trial, a perpetrator must be brought to the judicial process under the law to achieve justice for victims of the crime, their relatives and to those accused of crimes. A perpetrator of  a criminal offence  must receive a proportionate punishment to an offence committed to avoid impunity, which will instil  fear  and insecurities due to the serious criminal offence among the public. In the case of Koh Tao murder  where  the victims  are two British tourists, there are two Burmese migrants  accused of the crime. The Thai officials involved with the criminal justice system are responsible  to identify the offender to be punished under the criminal justice system under the domestic law and international laws Thailand has ratified. Thus, Thailand must follow the procedure during the  pre-trial process, such as in an investigation, an arrest, a pre-trial detention,  an interrogation,  during a trial, a witness examination, a detention of an accused or a defendant during the trial to prevent violations of the law or an abuse of  human rights to the accused.

The civil society organization working group and representatives also noted that the two suspects are shackled 24 hrs a day, when they were in the prison and while they are travelling to the court of justice. In this case, the Administrative Court issued a verdict that 24 hrs shackling is a violation of a prisoner's right.

As the Koh Tao murder case is under the local and international spotlight, the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), the Foundation of Education and Development (FED) and the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), who are NGOs to support an access to justice under the judicial process, the rule of law and human rights, would like to express our support to the Lawyer Council of Thailand's mission. We will jointly campaign for justice  and to end human rights violations to ensure that people will  trust in the Thai judicial process and the rule of law in Thailand.