Thailand murder suspects tell rights commission they were beaten

Thailand murder suspects tell rights commission they were beaten

The two Myanmar suspects accused of killing two British tourists on Koh Tao told National Human Rights Commission members who visited them in prison that they were assaulted after being arrested.

"They said that they were assaulted, but we don't know if the assault was really committed, as they had alleged," NHRC member Nirand Pitakwatchara said yesterday.

But police spokesman Lt-General Prawuth Thawornsiri has denied the suspects' claim, saying that the men underwent three medical examinations and showed no sign of being physically assaulted.

Nirand said the examinations were carried out before their detention court hearing at Surat Thani and were conducted at the provincial prison and then on Koh Tao. The final examination was carried out by the police's Institute of Forensic Medicine.

He said his statement was based on reports from NHRC subcommittee members who travelled to the island and visited the men at Koh Samui Prison.

Nirand said there was nothing in the men's statement that pinpointed when the alleged beatings took place, adding that the NHRC did not interfere with police investigations.

The allegations were combined with information from noted forensic scientist Khunying Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand.

The methods of the alleged assaults, according to the two suspects, were beating the body and covering their heads with plastic bags.

Nirand, a medical doctor, said an medical examination of one of the suspects found a bruise, which hurt when pressed, on his chest. It was unclear whether it was a chest bone or muscle injury.

An NHRC sub-committee would soon contact the prison where the men were being held so x-rays could be taken to determine if they had any injuries.

Nirand stressed that NHRC's role was to protect the men's rights and find out whether their assault claims were true - not to make a judgement on whether they committed the crimes.

He had earlier quoted a statement by the chief of Pha Ngan police, Colonel Prachum Ruengthong, who insisted that there were no beatings and the suspects were represented by lawyers in accordance with criminal procedural law.

A morning meeting between the NHRC and the police investigators involved in the case was held yesterday to discuss the suspects' allegation.

Meanwhile, national police chief General Somyot Poompanmoung said that British police detectives invited by Thai police to the Kingdom would maintain an observers' role in the case, while Myanmar was welcome to |dispatch observers as well.

Tourism police, tour operators and community leaders on Koh Tao yesterday held a meeting over what to do to boost tourist safety and provide better services.

The proposals included encouraging tourists to dress properly when not swimming or sunbathing, ask them not to commit intimate acts in public, as well as regulate taxi services and publishing do's and don'ts about Thai |culture on leaflets and in other media.

Meanwhile, the Thai embassy in Myanmar has issued visas for the families of the suspects, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said. They applied for the visas yesterday.

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