Myanmar convicts to appeal Koh Tao murder verdict

Myanmar convicts to appeal Koh Tao murder verdict

A legal team is preparing an appeal against the guilty verdict and death penalty for two Myanmar defendants, who are at the centre of the high-profile double murder case on Thailand's Koh Tao island.

"We will lodge an appeal on February 24," the defendants' lawyer Nakhon Chomphuchart disclosed recently. "We are confident our appeal will carry enough weight".

Koh Samui Court has found Nakhon's clients, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, guilty of killing two British tourists - Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. They were also convicted of raping the female victim. Along with the guilty verdict, the court handed down the death penalty to the two defendants.

The brutal crimes, which took place in 2014, have made headlines both locally and internationally. The case has also received serious attention from authorities in Thailand, Myanmar and Britain.

After the verdict was read out in December, many Myanmar people staged protests in their homeland as they believed the defendants' claim that they were forced into confessing.

Nakhon, who is now preparing the appeal for the Myanmar defendants, said police initially arrested Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun on charges of illegal entry.

"The arrest might have led them into initially making a confession out of ignorance, problems related to an interpreter [used by police] and threats they faced," the lawyer said.

He also pointed out that the two defendants did not have a lawyer by their side when they confessed.

"The maximum punishment of their case is death. So we see the lack of a lawyer to support them as an apparent violation of their rights," Nakhon said.

He said the appeal would also focus on unclear evidence and a lack of witnesses who directly saw the crimes taking place.

Nakhon said investigators had patched things together and some items of evidence used in the case were questionable.

According to him, the cell phones of the victims that police say were in the defendants' possession did not carry either of the two men's fingerprints.

He added that the defendants' fingerprints were not found on the hoe either, which was identified as a killing weapon.

Nakhon, moreover, questioned DNA testing standards and the fact that police did not use the clothes of the victims as evidence.

"Pictures of autopsies were not provided fully either," he said.

Pol General Jarumporn Suramanee, who worked as the National Police Office's adviser at the time the crime took place, has insisted up until now that police conducted the investigation systematically.

"We have checked recordings from as many as 360 security cameras," he said.

He pointed out that from the recordings, police identified the defendants.

"In addition, DNA traces found on and in Witheridge's body nailed down the defendants," Jarumporn said.

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