KOH SAMUI – The trial of Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun accused of murdering two British tourists last year is set to resume Thursday on Koh Samui in Surat Thani province.
The two are charged with murdering David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Sai Ree beach on the island of Koh Tao on Sept 15.
The case has drawn much international attention, and various observers have accused the Thai authorities of framing the Myanmar men, both 21, and organizing a cover-up after members of a local organized-crime gang were implicated.
Defense and prosecution lawyers at Thursday’s hearing are expected to update the court as to the progress of preparing witnesses, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported.
The court is also expected to consider the recent requests by the defence team that physical evidence be re-examined by the Ministry of Justice’s Central Institute of Forensic Science, and for more information provided regarding the process of DNA analysis.
Thai police nevertheless remain confident that DNA evidence will prove the Myanmar pair are guilty. Results of an investigation by British police from Scotland Yard were never made public, but the families of the two murdered Britons have reportedly been in contact with British authorities and say they are convinced Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun are guilty.
A lawyer representing the migrants told DVB in October that the pair told their legal team and members of the Myanmar embassy that they were tortured into giving confessions.
Meanwhile, some 100 Myanmar migrant workers joined a workshop on Koh Tao on Monday and Tuesday to discuss migrant rights.
Participants in the workshop, organised by the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) and the Human Rights and Development Foundation, on Tuesday set out an eight-point list of demands to Thai authorities, including: regular pay for migrant workers; the opening of a Myanmar migrant passport centre; preventing police and officials from acting above the law; and conformity to labour regulations.
A letter with the demands was handed over to the Koh Tao municipal chief on Tuesday.
“I believe that organising networks here will be very helpful in promoting the rights of migrants,” said a Myanmar organiser of the event. “Many migrants on the island live in fear. They do not know their rights and are afraid of the authorities.”
Some 4,000 Myanmar nationals work on Koh Tao. Organisers said most did not attend the workshop because they feared repercussions from the local police.
One attendee told DVB: “Previously, I would have been afraid to come to a workshop like this. But if both migrant workers and officials are aware of and respect labour rights, this island will be a safer and better place for us.”
Andy Hall, a British activist working on migrants’ issues for the MWRN, said, “I have been to this island many times in assisting (Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun) during the hearings in the murder case. During that time, I have learned more and more about the plight of migrant workers on this island which is so popular among foreign tourists.”