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Solicitors from International Human Rights Group Banned from Taking Notes in Koh Tao Murder Trial



Murder suspects Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo in police custody

Murder suspects Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo in police custody



KOH SAMUI -International observer from monitoring agency Solicitors International Human Rights Group complained to the judges that he was not allowed to keep a written account of the trial the murder trial of David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the Thai Gulf island of Koh Tao.

Journalists and other observers have been banned from taking notes or making any recordings since the first day of the trial. According to the Thai legal system, permission to take notes is at the discretion of the judges. Despite the complaint, the judges yesterday declined to lift the ban.

The defence maintains that the Rakhine natives are being scapegoated following a botched investigation that was rushed to clear Thailand’s marred image as a tourist paradise.

The defence team’s case relies on the ability to conduct an independent re-analysis of DNA evidence that allegedly pegs the accused to the crime scene. After initially being told that the original DNA samples were “finished”, the defence has now been given permission to retest all remaining “trace” DNA on samples from the crime scene.

The Thai Court in Koh Samui has heard that the interpreters used to record the confessions of two Burmese men accused of murdering a pair of British backpackers last year were in fact flatbread hawkers who did not properly understand Thai or the suspects’ native Burmese dialect.

Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin, both 22, stand accused of the murder of David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the Thai Gulf island of Koh Tao. The victims’ bloodied corpses were discovered in the early hours of Sept. 15 on popular Sairee Beach just yards from their guesthouse.

The suspects, both ethnic Rakhine from Burma’s restive western Arakan state, were working on Koh Tao at the time, and admitted to the double murder during interrogation. However, they soon recanted and claimed they were tortured into confessing.

On Thursday, Samui Central Court heard that two Rohingya Muslims — an ethnicity currently engaged in a bitter sectarian feud with the Rakhine — were employed as interpreters during their interrogation. However, they only had rudimentary understanding of Thai and the Rakhine language, reports the Myanmar Times.

One of the translators, named Ko Ye, admitted to the defense team that he signed a statement confirming what was said during the interrogation even though it was written in the Thai language, which he could not read.

Wai Phyo said the translator accused him of being party to mob violence against Rohingya in their homeland. “He asked me: ‘When the riots started in Burma, where were you? Did you burn down my village?’” said Wai Phyo.

The case continues….

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