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Two Myanmar migrants make final appeal in Koh Tao murder case

Zaw Lin (right) and Wai Phyo (left) being escorted by a Thai police officer.
Thailand's Supreme Court accepted the final appeal by Thai lawyers representing Myanmar migrants Win Zaw Tun and Zaw Linn, who have been sentenced to death for the murder of British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on Koh Tao island in Thailand.

The final appeal, which is 319 pages long, was submitted to the court on August 21 by the Thailand Lawyers Council.

In its appeal, the council pointed to evidence that Win and Zaw had been denied justice and fairness throughout the case and are innocent despite the death sentence, according to Myanmar embassy special representative U Aung Myo Thant, who is also a lawyer working on the case with the council.

He said they pointed out that Thai police violated standard police procedure in the collection of DNA evidence and phone records. The council said the police failed to carry out proper procedures in searching for DNA evidence, and they forced the two migrants to admit to the murder.

“We have submitted throughout this whole process that the evidence does not support the death sentence and the two Myanmar men are innocent,” U Aung Myo Thant said on Monday.

Win and Zaw have been imprisoned for three years since the murders of the two British backpackers on September 15, 2014. They were found guilty of seven charges – including the murder of Miller, the rape and murder of Witheridge and of illegally living in Thailand – and sentenced to death in December 2015 in a Thai court on Koh Samui island.

U Aung Myo Thant said the council pointed out the evidence was not strong enough to support the death sentence.

The National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom admitted to a court in London in August that they illegally gave phone records to the Thai police that helped to convict the two Myanmar migrants.

He said the evidence supplied by the UK agency and submitted by the prosecution can be considered illegal.

U Aung Myo Thant cited the example of a court ruling on a murder case six years ago in Thailand. In that case, a suspect who was sentenced to death by a court had the sentence overturned by the Supreme Court because the evidence was not strong enough, even though the suspect admitted to the murder.

“Thailand has only one law for its citizens as well as foreigners, so I believe our two migrants can escape the death sentence because there is not enough evidence of murder,” he said.

He said he knows there are good prospects for a reprieve for the two migrants because he has attended all the hearings in the case and knows the case thoroughly.

The lawyers council submitted appeals to overturn the death sentence twice before, but the appeals were denied by lower courts.

The council and Myanmar officials hope to hear a ruling on the final appeal to the Supreme Court within six months.

U Aung Myo Thant said they will appeal again to the Thai royal government if the Supreme Court rejects their final appeal.

U Aung Kyaw, president of the Thailand-based Migrant Workers Rights Network, which has been helping the council on the case, also urged the Thai government to rule in favour of the two Myanmar men.

Myanmar’ special representative U Htoo Chit, executive director of the Thailand-based Foundation for Education, also said the NCA’s admission of illegally sharing evidence could affect the case and require that it be reinvestigated.

Migrant activist Ko Shwe Tun Aye, chair of the Phuket-based Migrant Workers Network, which is helping on the final appeal, also hoped for a good outcome for the two men.

Myanmar’s chief of defence and president of parliament have also appealed to the Thai government for justice and fairness for the two migrants.

Myanmar nationals have held protests and asked for justice for the two Myanmar migrants. Famous Myanmar psychic Ee Ti, who died recently, also asked the Thai royal family for justice on behalf of the two Myanmar migrants.

Source: Myanmar Times, September 22, 2017

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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