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Final Evidence Given at Koh Tao Murder Trail, Police Torture and Forced Confessions



Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun arrive at the Koh Samui Provincial Court

Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun arrive at the Koh Samui Provincial Court



KOH SAMUI -At yesterday’s hearing in Koh Samui Court, Zaw Lin, the first defendant, answered questions from a defence lawyer. During the defense’s three-hour hearing he said he was assaulted by police.

Zaw Lin and Wei Phyo have been giving evidence in the closing stages of their trial over the murders of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, in Koh Tao in September last year.

Zaw Lin, admitted to crimes he did not commit after being physically assaulted and threatened with being killed.
He told the court that after his arrest, a police interpreter told him to admit to the crime or he would be killed. He was told that if he confessed, he would be imprisoned for “only four to five years”.

Due to fear, he agreed to confess, the co-defendant told the court.

He said that before re-enactment of the crime at the scene of the murders, an interpreter suggested what should be done.

Zaw Lin testified that in November last year he signed his name to a written confession because he was still afraid of getting killed. He claimed that he did not understand the words in the document.

Later, he passed a hand-written note to a trusted lawyer, who regularly visited him at Koh Samui Prison.

He wrote: “I didn’t kill. I knew nothing about the murders”, and signed his name.

The lawyer later submitted Zaw Lin’s petition seeking fair treatment and claim that he was not the real culprit.

Zaw Lin told the court that he was hit by an interpreter after answering his question about a dispute in Rakhine State between Buddhists and Muslims. Zaw Lin said he told the interpreter he knew nothing much because he had lived at Koh Tao for some time already.

Zaw Lin also told the court he thought the police officers were going to suffocate him as they repeatedly put plastic bags over his head and tightened them around his face and neck until he collapsed.

As the court session went on into the night, Wei Phyo said he was punched repeatedly for refusing to admit he was filmed on CCTV running away from the killings.

Wei Phyo told the trial: “The police asked if that was me in the picture and I said no. I was wearing a black top and long trousers that night, as seen in earlier CCTV footage, and the person they were pointing to wasn’t me and was wearing white shorts.

“But when I denied it they punched me. They asked me again and again and I repeated again and again that it was not me on the CCTV but they punched me every time, until I had to confess to stop it.”

The defence team brought in a British forensic expert to prove to the court that the man in the picture, whose face was unclear, was not Wei Phyo, after the prosecution insisted it was.

The prosecution insists DNA from the Myanmar migrant workers was found on Ms Witheridge’s body. But the defense team has called many witnesses to discredit the DNA testing process, which was done exclusively by Thai police.

Thailand’s Central Institute of Forensic Science re-examined the murder weapon, a hoe, and testified there was no DNA from the accused on it, but it did have DNA from the both victims and a third unidentified person.

The clothing Ms Witheridge was wearing when her body was found was not presented as evidence.

Officials from the National Human Rights Commission and the Myanmar Embassy were also present during yesterday’s hearing.

The trial has been a torturous process for the families of the victims, who have been forced to fly back and forth to Thailand to attend 21 days of testimony spread over four months. The pronouncement of the verdict could take another three months.

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