Koh Tao murders: Rights group arranges lawyers for Myanmar suspects

Koh Tao murders: Rights group arranges lawyers for Myanmar suspects
Thai national police chief Police General Somyot stands next to two detained workers from Myanmar, suspected of killing two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao last month, as he speaks to reporters on the island.

A team of lawyers has been sent to help the two migrant Myanmar workers being charged with murdering two British tourists and raping one of them on Koh Tao, a prominent activist for the rights of migrant workers said yesterday.

The move came amid concerns that the arrested men may not be the real culprits.

Andy Hall, the activist for the rights of migrant workers in Thailand, tweeted yesterday that he was sending a team of lawyers to see the two Myanmar workers charged.

"We are sending the legal team [and] seek to gain access to the accused, to advise them on their rights under Thai law, and provide reliable translation," he said.

Hall pointed out that the desire to get involved stemmed from reports of physical abuse although the activist acknowledged that he had no evidence of physical abuse against the two men charged, nor was there evidence to prove a claim that the police DNA tests were inaccurate.

National police chief Police General Somyot Pumpunmuang maintained yesterday that the suspects were no scapegoats. He said police had strong evidence against the two Myanmar men charged in the double-murder case.

Somyot said police investigators took a long time before catching the suspects because they had to wait for the results of the DNA tests on many people and study video footage from more than 300 security cameras around the crime scene on a beach.

Meanwhile, local officials in Surat Thani said yesterday that tourists were returning to Koh Tao resort island in droves after the alleged culprits in the murders of British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were arrested.

Thawisak Inphrom, the chief of Koh Pha-ngan district, of which Koh Tao is part, said that tourism on Koh Tao has become "busy again" following the arrests.

"Tourists now have become more confident about safety on the island, and they are confident the authorities can provide safety for them," he said.

Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatrapoot said the arrest of the suspects had helped restore confidence among prospective tourists to Koh Tao.

The governor said he has instructed the local authorities to provide safety to tourists "in an integrated way", with increase in the number of security officials, security cameras and lights in areas deemed risky. He said there would be increased safety for tourists with those "integrated measures".

Local residents and business operators on Koh Tao yesterday also expressed their hope that the arrest of suspects in the murder case would restore tourist confidence on the island and improve its tourism sector.

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