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Death Sentences of Myanmar Migrant Workers Commuted to Life in Prison

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The death sentences for the two migrant workers from Myanmar for murder of two British backpackers on Koh Tao have had their sentences commuted to life in prison under a royal decree by the King of Thailand.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were sentenced to death for the murder of David Miller and the murder and rape of Hannah Witheridge  whose bodies were discovered on a beach on the popular tourist island in Surat Thani in September 2014.

The two migrant workers were convicted and sentenced in 2015 and the ruling was upheld by an appeal court in 2017 and the Supreme Court of Thailand in August 2019.

The convictions were mired in controversy, with supporters of the two men arguing that they had been framed and that they had initially confessed to the crimes under duress. The police investigation and handling of crucial DNA evidence were also widely criticized.

Their sentences will be reduced to life imprisonment under a royal pardon, their lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat told Reuters.

“The two are eligible under a section in the royal pardon decree to get their death sentences reduced to life imprisonment,” Nakhon told reporters.

“They will also have a chance to get their sentences reduced further on good behaviour.”

The decree published in the Royal Gazette in Thailand on Friday said the pardons were granted to commemorate His Majesty the King’s birthday on July 28.

It was not immediately clear how many other prisoners were eligible for pardons or reduction of sentences under different criteria listed in the decree.

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