Royal Pardon Last Hope For Burmese Migrant Workers Sentenced to Death For Koh Tao Murders

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Thailand’s Supreme Court has rejected the final appeal of two Burmese men convicted of the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao; they continue to be on death row.

Lawyers for Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun—who are migrant workers from Burma—sent the final 300-page appeal to the court nearly two years ago.

Prosecutors sent their final arguments nearly a year and a half ago, in March 2018.

“The Nonthaburi District court declared the decision. The judge read out a three-hour long report related to the case… They confirmed the death penalty,” lawyer U Aung Myo Thant, a member of the Burmese embassy’s special envoy, told NMG regarding Thursday’s decision. “They said that there were no new facts found in the final appeal report. I think they made the decision by looking at the previous case report,” he added.

U Aung Myo Thant argued that the defendants had been tortured while in police custody, and that the evidence was not sufficient to convict Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun.

“We, the defense lawyers, reported that the male organs of our defendants were hit in the jail after their faces were covered with cloth. They had to take their clothes off in jail, and the authorities turned up the air-conditioning,” he explained. “We said in court that our defendants were tortured in jail. The judge said this was impossible, because there are government officials working there.”

He also cited the testimony of forensic specialist Dr. Ponthip, who argued that the DNA of the defendants was not found on the suspected murder weapon, a hoe. The judge reportedly argued that the killers could have rinsed it with seawater, since the murders occurred on a beach.

The defense lawyers’ final strategy in avoiding the death penalty is to send a petition to His Majesty the King of Thailand Maha Vajiralongkorn asking for a royal pardon for the two young men.

“We have tried our best to get the truth. That’s why we sent the final appeal to the Thai court. After the Thai Supreme Court rejected the final appeal, the legal process was concluded,” U Aung Myo Thant said. “We have only one chance. We can send our petition letter to His Majesty, the King of Thailand.”

Counselor U Aung Kyaw Thura from the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, members of Burmese embassy’s special envoy, and migrant worker rights defenders attended the court session on Thursday.

British nationals Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were murdered on the Thai island of Koh Tao in 2014. A Koh Samui court sentenced Win Zaw Tun and Zaw Lin to death on December 24, 2015. They have denied any involvement in the murder, and Thai and Burmese lawyers have appealed the decision twice within the Thai legal system.