BANGKOK – Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has agreed to allow British police to help with the investigation into the murder of two young Britons on the holiday island of Koh Tao, diplomatic sources said Friday.
The head of the junta dropped his objections to a visit by British detectives following a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron on the margins of the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders in Milan.
“What the prime minister secured this morning was agreement from the Thai prime minister that we can send some British police investigators to Koh Tao to work with the Royal Thai Police on this,” a British diplomatic source reported.
Details of the agreement were yet to be worked out, but would involve “close coordination” between Thai authorities and the British Embassy in Bangkok, said Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak, the deputy spokesman of Thailand’s Army.
The new comes after Police chief Pol General Somyot Pumpunmuang said yesterday foreign countries are not permitted to have investigators look into crimes that occur in Thailand, as that would be considered a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
More than 100,000 people from across the world had signed an online petition calling for the British government to order an independent inquiry into the murders. The British law stipulates that an e-petition with at least 100,000 signatures can be brought to and debated in the House of Commons.
The Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun were charged with the murder of David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, afte the tourists’ battered bodies were found on Koh Tao on September 15.
Thai police have said the two suspects confessed to the crime and their DNA matched samples taken from Witheridge’s body, but there have been accusations that the men were tortured — something Thailand strongly denies.
“There are two areas we are particularly concerned about,” said the diplomatic source.
“One is the verification of the DNA samples of the suspects, making sure there is further independent verification. And the second is the investigation into allegations of mistreatment of the suspects.”
The source stressed that “obviously it is for the Thai authorities to lead and carry out that judicial process”, but said it was important that it was “fair and transparent”.
Concerns about the murder investigation include the fact the crime scene was not sealed off after the killings, as well as the fact an early statement was released by police saying that no Thai person could have committed such a crime.
Earlier this week, Win Zaw’s mother told the BBC she did not believe the young men committed the crime, adding that this ordeal has left her feeling suicidal. Zaw Lin’s mother said: “The case has been rigged against my son.”
Britain summoned Thailand’s top diplomat in London on Monday to lay out its “real concern” about the handling of the case and offer its support, while the British envoy in Bangkok also met top Thai officials to discuss the case.