KOH SAMUI – Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun the two migrant workers accused murdering two British tourists were reported to have retracted their confessions, as Thai prosecutors rejected a police report into the killings claiming it lacked “crucial information” and a leading forensic expert said the investigation “contradicted the principles of forensic science”.
Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, were arrested last Friday for the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller whose disfigured bodies were dumped on a beach on the Thai island of Koh Tao on September 15.
Police chief Somyot Poompanmoung this week described the investigation as a “perfect job”.
However, the inquiry has been dogged with criticism from the outset, including accusations of botched forensic work and, this week, claims about the alleged torture of the two accused men.
Aung Myo Thant, who has been described as a lawyer with connections to the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, met the accused men on Monday and, in interviews with Thai and Burmese media, said they claimed to have been beaten and threatened with electrocution in order to confess.
“They said they didn’t do it, that the Thai police beat them until they confessed to something they didn’t do,” he was quoted as saying by Myanmar’s 7Day Daily newspaper, according to the Bangkok Post.
“They were a really pitiful sight,” he added. “Their bodies had all sorts of bruises.”
Mark Kent, the UK ambassador in Bangkok, received a two-hour briefing on those allegations from human rights activists on Wednesday afternoon and Foreign Office officials, who initially offered support to Thai police, now say they are “concerned” about the alleged mistreatment of the accused men.
In a statement, the family of Hannah Witheridge, a 23-year-old from Great Yarmouth, also hinted at their concerns over the investigation.
“As a family we hope that the right people are found and brought to justice,” the statement, released ahead of Ms Witheridge’s funeral on Friday, said.
Thailand’s top forensic expert added her voice to the criticism on Thursday, accusing police of failing to involve a forensic pathologist in the initial investigation.
“A case of two murdered people certainly needs a forensic physician,” Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, head of Thailand’s Central Institute of Forensic Science, was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post. The police’s actions “contradicted the principles of forensic science,” the expert claimed.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s state-run media on Wednesday, the Burmese embassy demanded an impartial investigation into the case. “The Myanmar Embassy is making all-out efforts with Thai authorities to ensure an impartial investigation into the murder and legal rights to two Myanmar suspects.
Thai Prosecutors in Surat Thani province, where the murders took place, reportedly rejected the police’s investigation, telling officials they needed to “fix certain flaws” and supply “more crucial information”, according to a report in Thailand’s The Nation newspaper.
A third Myanmar man, Maung Maung, who is being held in custody as a witness in the murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao said thursday he did not see the killings, according to DVB.
The police report was “incomplete”, another prosecutor said, according to the Bangkok Post.
The father of Win Zaw Htun, one of the accused men, told Burmese media he did not believe his son was capable of murder.
“My son is helpful and friendly,” U Tun Tun Hteik told Myanmar’s Mizzima News website. “He is not a wild guy.”
“I think he will be released if the investigation into this case is fair and systematic.”
Residents of Koh Tao have expressed extreme scepticism about the police claims that the Burmese men, one of whom worked as a waiter in a pub, were responsible. More than 280,000 people have joined a Facebook discussion group that has pointed out key discrepancies in the investigation.
A Koh Tao resident, who knew one of the accused, told Phillips: “There is not an aggressive or bad bone in his body.”
“They are both tiny,” the source said of the accused men. “It is hard to believe they could overpower a girl who was fighting for her life.” – By Tom Phillips