Two workers from Myanmar (wearing helmets and handcuffs), suspected of killing two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao last month- REUTERS/Stringer
KOH TAO – Two migrant workers from Myanmar were formally arrested on Friday after police said they had confessed to killing two British backpackers whose bodies were found on a beach in southern Thailand last month.
Thailand’s national police chief, Somyot Poompanmoung, said DNA results released late on Thursday night backed up the confessions of the two men that they had raped and killed 23-year-old Hannah Witheridge and murdered 24-year-old David Miller on Koh Tao, an island known for its pristine diving sites.
Police identified the 21-year-old workers from Burma’s western Rakhine state as “Win” and “Saw”. Both were detained on the island on Thursday and questioned by police who brought them to the crime scene on Friday to re-enact their alleged crimes, a standard part of criminal investigations in Thailand.
Crowds of onlookers watched as the suspects were led to the rocky alcove along the shore where the two bodies were discovered on 15 September. Autopsies showed that Witheridge had died of head injuries, and that Miller had also suffered severe blows to the head and had drowned in the surf. It is still unclear what prompted the killings.
During the re-enactment, the two men wore flak jackets and motorcycle helmets as protection against angry residents, who fear the crime will damage tourism to the remote island.
“There was clear evidence: forensic evidence, witnesses and other evidence, as well as closed-circuit television footage,” Somyot told reporters. “The police and investigation teams have analyzed all evidence and it’s clear that the two suspects committed the crime on that day.”
The two face charges of murder, rape and theft, but have not yet been formally charged, he said. They are expected to remain in custody until they are taken to court.
About 2.5 million people from Burma work in Thailand, most of them as domestic servants or in low-skilled manual labor in the construction, fisheries or garment industries.
Koh Tao, about 250 miles south of Bangkok, is a small, quiet island a short boat ride from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The latter is known for raucous full moon parties that attract young foreigners and Thais.