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Myanmar Men Sentenced to Death Seek Clemency from Thailand’s King

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Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun leave after the hearing at the Nonthaburi provincial court in Thailand, August 29, 2019

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Two Myanmar migrant sentenced to death row in Thailand for the murder of two British backpackers have submitted a pardon request to King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The royal pardon would commute their death sentences to imprisonment, their lawyer said on Thursday.

Migrant workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 26, were sentenced to death in 2015.  They are alleged to have murder of David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23. The British backpackers bodies were discovered on a beach of Koh Tao island in September 2014.

The two Myanmar men were convicted and given the death sentence in 2015, and the verdict was upheld by an appeal court in 2017 and the Supreme Court in August.

“We have submitted a petition appealing for a reduction in the sentence to imprisonment so that the two can continue to live,” their lawyer, Nakhon Chompuchat, told Reuters after submitting the petition to authorities at Bang Kwang maximum security prison.

“There are still opportunities for them to do good and if one day they can get out of prison they can go out to look after their parents,” he said.

Thai law allows those sentenced to death to seek a royal pardon within 60 days of their final conviction, but if the request is dismissed then an execution can go ahead.

Thailand carried out its first execution in years in June last year. A murder suspect was put to death by lethal injection. In the nine years prior to that execution all death sentences were commuted. Usually in most cases the death sentences are reduced to life imprisonment.

Victims Families Divided

Meanwhile, the mothers of two Myanmar men also submitted a plea for clemency from His Majesty the King on Thursday. In a case tainted by claims of irregularities.

Defence lawyers have said the evidence used to convict the two men were unreliable. Saying authorities had mishandled DNA and did not allow independent analysis of the samples.

The two Myanmar men also argued that confessions by the pair were obtained under duress.

The original rulings on the 2014 double killing divided relatives of the victims.

Miller’s parents backed the court’s decision, but the family of Witheridge were more cautious. Witheridge’s sister said she believed the investigation had been “bungled“.

The case has triggered a strong reaction from Myanmar, where many felt the two men, as lowly paid migrant workers, had been given an unfair trial.

The police were accused of buckling under pressure to solve a crime that attracted global attention.

Source: Reuters