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Translation said to have been denied in Thai appeals court’s Koh Tao ruling

A man lights a candle at a vigil for the Koh Tao murder convicts in Arakan State. (Photo: DVB)

Burmese nationals Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, on death row in a Thai prison for the murder of two British tourists, were denied Burmese translation services when officials read out a court ruling rejecting their appeal on 23 February, according to a member of the Burmese delegation assisting the pair.

During a recent meeting at Bangkok’s Bang Kwang maximum security prison, Htoo Chit, a spokesperson for the Burmese delegation involved in the Koh Tao murder case, said the two convicted men told him their request for translation was denied when the appeals verdict — upholding their death sentences — was read out last month.

“They appeared to be in good health but from what they said, it appeared their request for translation when the appeals court’s verdict rejecting their appeal was read out to them was denied,” said Htoo Chit, who is part of a delegation that includes Burmese Embassy personnel.

“They also expressed their gratitude to the Burmese government and everyone assisting them in the case, including the Burmese Embassy officials giving them moral support and doing what they can to help them.”

Htoo Chit said Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, having had their appeal rejected, still have one more chance of seeing their verdict overturned by Thailand’s highest court. Burmese Embassy officials were to meet with members of the Thailand Lawyers Council, which has also been assisting in the case, on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a final appeal.

“There is still one court left to appeal to and the Burmese Embassy officials, including the acting ambassador, will meet with lawyers of the Thailand Lawyers Council and listen to their suggestions on how the [final appeal] should be filed,” he said.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were charged with murdering the two British tourists, David Miller and Hannah Witheridge — and raping the latter — on the southern Thai tourist island Koh Tao in 2014. A year later, the Koh Samui Provincial Court found them guilty of the charges and handed down the death sentence, leading to protests in Burma.

Thai investigators’ handling of the case was heavily criticised amid accusations of botched evidence gathering and allegations that law enforcement authorities maltreated the then-suspects while they were in custody.

On Tuesday, the Rakhine Women’s Union in western Burma’s Arakan State organised candlelight vigils for the two convicted men in all 17 townships across the state in light of news of their death sentences being upheld, which was revealed last week. Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun originally hailed from Arakan State.