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A lawyer contracted by the Burmese embassy to defend two Burmese migrants accused of murdering a British couple on the Thai island of Koh Tao said the men confessed to the crimes on Monday, but told the legal team they had been tortured.
Lawyer Aung Myo Thant said the pair, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, from the Arakanese town of Kyaukphyu, told a Burmese embassy legal team they had murdered English tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller by bludgeoning them to death with a hoe on 15 September. However, he said, their stories were “somewhat inconsistent” and “their faces portrayed fear”.
“From what we have learned, there are inconsistencies with both the forensic report and evidence provided in the case,” said Aung Myo Thant.
“The defendants kept repeating that they were very drunk that night. Based on what we have been told, it seems to us like this case is a set-up and not based on hard facts.”
Officials from the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on Monday travelled to the neighbouring island of Koh Samui to meet the two Arakanese migrants who have been remanded in custody pending murder and rape charges. The embassy officials, led by second secretary Htun Aye, were accompanied by Thai and Burmese lawyers, as well as migrant rights activists. The embassy said Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun signed over power of attorney to the legal team contracted by the embassy.
“Today, [Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun] signed power of attorney to the embassy’s legal team,” said lawyer Aung Myo Thant on Monday. “We will try to offer them any assistance we can from a legal perspective.”
Speaking to DVB on Monday, Kyaw Thaung, a representative of the Myanmar Association in Thailand, who attended the interview with the defendants, said, “We went to the prison [on Koh Samui] and were allowed to meet with the two freely. They confessed to committing the crime under the influence of alcohol. When asked for further details, they said they bashed the victims two or three times each with the blunt end of a hoe, but not with the sharp end. They said they did it because they were drunk but did not intend to kill the couple.
According to Thai police, the Burmese men have confessed to the crimes and their DNA matches that taken from one of the victims.
However, the case has stirred great controversy over the police’s handling of the investigation, and the alleged protection of influential persons on the island of Koh Tao. The UK government has been petitioned to call for a full investigation into the case. When contacted by DVB on Monday, the British embassy in Bangkok declined to comment about the case.
The embassy’s Htun Aye said the team requested a copy of the investigation report from Koh Samui police but were refused.
“We asked the police for a copy of the investigation report but they refused on the grounds that it is not complete,” he told DVB. “We just want to know if their report checks out with the kids’ confessions.
“We are doing whatever we can, but at the same time we also have to respect Thai law,” he added.
Htun Aye said the Burmese legal team were denied permission to talk to a third detainee, Maung Maung, whom the Thai media reported as Arakanese and may have witnessed the crimes.
Police have publicly said that he is being treated well and is under their protection.
The Royal Thai Police are due to hold a press conference on the case in Bangkok on Tuesday.