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Burmese Migrants Released After Murder Convictions Overturned in Southern Thailand

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RANONG – Two Burmese men serving six and eight-year sentences for the alleged murder of a 17 year-old Thai girl in Ranong, Thailand in 2015 won their appeal in a southern Thailand court Wednesday.

Sein Kadone and Wai Lin—who received eight- and six-year sentences, respectively—had been in prison for three years and eight months. They were finally released on Thursday.

In October of 2015, 4 Burmese men—Sein Kadone, Wai Lin, Moe Zin Aung and Kyaw Soe Win—were arrested and charged on five counts for the gruesome murder of Orawee Sampaotong, a 17-year-old Thai woman.

The Ranong provincial court handed down guilty verdicts in April 2018.

Burmese Nationals Moe Zin Aung and Kyaw Soe Win, both minors at the time of sentencing, received sentences of four years and two years, respectively, from the Juvenile Court of Ranong, but were released last year.

Since their arrests, observers and family members have claimed the four Burmese men were forced to confess under torture during interrogation by Thai police.

Their families said the men and boys were on fishing boats out at sea for the majority of their time in Thailand, and only ever on land for five or six days a month.

Since their arrests, observers and family members have claimed the four migrants were forced to confess under torture during interrogation by Thai police.

U Min Oo, a migrant rights advocate at the Foundation for Education Development (FED), told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the two men are currently in the custody of Thai immigration officials in Ranong, and that they’ll be officially returned to Myanmar next week.

“As soon as we heard that the appeal had been won, we went to meet Wai Lin and Sein Kadone. Sein Kadone is eager to go back to his home in Myeik, in southern Myanmar,” U Min Oo said.

He said Thai officials had not relayed the court decision in Ranong to the defense lawyers, who received the news from the two Burmese mens’ relatives.

“They said they did not expect it,” U Min Oo said, speaking of Sein Kadone and Wai Lin, but added that they expressed their gratitude to all the groups and individuals that supported them.

Daw Ni Tut, Sein Kadone’s mother, said her son’s release was unexpected.

“I met him this morning and I am happy,” she said.

Despite being released, the two must remain in the custody of immigration authorities while going through the official return process.

Thai Immigration police officials said that Sein Kadone and Wai Lin will be returned to Myanmar next Tuesday.

The murder in Ranong occurred a year after an infamous case in which two Myanmar migrants were arrested and charged with the rape and murder of two British backpackers on Koh Tao island, in southern Thailand, in September 2014. The two were convicted and sentenced to death in December 2015. They are still in prison appealing their convictions.

The two cases highlight the way Burmese migrants have become easy scapegoats for violent crime in Thailand.

By Nyein Nyein
The Irrawaddy