Burmese Migrant Worker Zaw Li Tells Thai Court of Tortured Confession
KOH SAMUI – Burmese migrant worker Zaw Lin, 22, one of the men accused of killing two British tourists on Koh Tao Island claims he was stripped naked, beaten and threatened with having his teeth pulled out or being killed at sea.
Zaw Lin, claims police also tried to extract a confession by blindfolding him and suffocating him with plastic bags until he collapsed.
He and co-accused Wei Phyo are alleged to have murdered Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on 14 September last year on the island of Koh Tao.
International human rights observers at trial say allegations of police abuse would constitute torture if true.
Zaw Lin told the court in neighboring Koh Samui how he was woken in the early hours of 2 October, 2014, to find 10 men gathered in the dormitory he shared with other workers.
“They kicked me in the face with their feet and slapped me around the head. They kept asking me “Did you kill?” and when I said no they hit me again,” Zaw Lin told the court.
During the interrogation in early October last year, two weeks after the bodies were found on a beach, Zaw Lin said they put him on the telephone to his co-accused, Wei Phyo, also 22, who told him: “They almost killed me. I am almost dying.”
Both men claim they eventually confessed to the rape and murder of Ms Witheridge and the bludgeoning to death of David Miller, after being told they would only go to prison for four or five years.
Kingsley Abbott of the International Commission of Jurists, along with other human rights lawyers, sat through the 10 hours of testimony on Wednesday.
Mr Abbot said afterwards: “Based on what we heard today, that he was stripped naked, had plastic bags placed over his head, blindfolded and made to fear for his life in order to extract a confession, it is very likely to meet the definition of torture as defined by the Convention Against Torture, to which Thailand is a party.”
He added: “Today’s allegations must be subject to a serious enquiry by the court and if proven, any evidence obtained as a result of the torture must be set aside.”
Both men retracted their confessions several weeks later when they were eventually given access to lawyers, and they have maintained their innocence ever since.
A former cellmate in Koh Samui prison, and the prison doctor, both testified to seeing wounds and injuries on both the accused after their interrogation.
Zaw Lin’s mother was in court to listen to the allegations by her son.
As he went into detail about the abuse he claimed he had suffered she had to leave the court and vomited outside.
The parents of David Miller were also in court. They said they were happy to be able to listen to the proceedings first hand.
“We spoke to David just six hours before he died and he was so happy. He said he absolutely loved the place and it was so beautiful and he was full of his trip,” his mother, Sue Miller, said.
Zaw Lin said he and two friends had been on the same beach as the victims in the early hours of 15 September.
They had bought beer and cigarettes and were playing their guitar about 60m from where the bodies were found at dawn.
But Lin said they had simply had a swim in the sea at about 2am before going home to bed.
The third man was not arrested with Zaw Lin and Wei Phyo, and police investigators told the court they have since “lost contact with him”.
The trial continues.
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