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Myanmar Government says Workers Innocent of Murdering Britons in Koh Tao

Migrant rights activist Htoo Chit, lawyer Aung Myo Thant and investigation team member Kyaw Htaung at a press conference on Thursday. (Photo: Sai Zaw / The Irrawaddy)

Migrant rights activist Htoo Chit, lawyer Aung Myo Thant and investigation team member Kyaw Htaung at a press conference on Thursday. (Photo: Sai Zaw / The Irrawaddy)

 

BANGKOK – A team formed by the Myanmar Government to investigate the Koh Tao case has announced that it is confident the two Burmese nationals accused of the double murder are innocent of the crime.

Three members of a special support team operating out of the Burmese Embassy in Thailand reported on thursday they believe two Myanmar men accused of murdering two British tourists in Thailand are innocent, but witnesses who might be able to prove their innocence will not testify as they fear the Thai police.

Pictures of killed British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge and a message of support to their friends and families are displayed during special prayers at Koh Tao island

Pictures of killed British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge and a message of support to their friends and families are displayed during special prayers at Koh Tao island

 

Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found dead on Sept. 15 on a beach on the southern Thai island of Koh Tao. Post-mortem examinations showed both suffered severe head wounds and Witheridge was raped.

The murders dealt a blow to Thailand’s vital tourism industry, which is struggling to recover after months of political unrest and a May 22 coup, and the government called on police to solve the case quickly.

Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Phyo, both 21, initially confessed to the murders but later retracted their confessions saying they had been beaten and threatened by Thai police

But Thai police deny those accusations and say they have solid evidence, including DNA evidence, against the two men who were arrested in October.

A committee set up by Myanmar’s embassy in Thailand to investigate the case said they had interviewed about 40 Myanmar nationals who were working on Koh Tao at the time of the murders.

Tun Tun Htike (L) and May Thein, parents of Win Zaw Htun, one of two Myanmar workers accused of killing British tourists, cry as they speak to reporters after arriving in Bangkok October 22, 2014

Tun Tun Htike (L) and May Thein, parents of Win Zaw Htun, one of two Myanmar workers accused of killing British tourists, cry as they speak to reporters after arriving in Bangkok October 22, 2014

 

Some of those interviewed were “strong witnesses” who might provide evidence to exonerate the accused, said Kyaw Thaung, who heads the committee, but they were reluctant to testify and had returned to Myanmar for fear of being implicated in the crime.

“If they go to court and speak as witnesses, they’ll have problems with the Thai police and Thai bosses,” Kyaw Thaung told reporters in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

Thai Police Major General Suwat Jaengyordsuk, defended the investigation, which he led, and said Myanmar was welcome to present witnesses.

The two pleaded not guilty on Dec. 8 to charges including conspiracy to commit murder and rape. The first hearing in the case will take place on Dec. 26.

“Whatever the Thai government decides in this case, we believe these two young people did not commit this crime,” said Htoo Chit, the Myanmar committee’s spokesman.

Reuters, Irrawaddy

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