Thai Court upholds death for two Burmese in British murders

BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand’s Supreme Court yesterday upheld the conviction of two Myanmar migrants sentenced to death for the murder of two British backpackers on a resort island in 2014.

Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin have denied killing David Miller and raping and killing Hannah Witheridge. Their battered bodies were found on the morning of September 15, 2014, on a beach on the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.

Lawyers for the two convicted men had claimed the evidence in the case was mishandled and that they made confessions under duress that they later retracted, raising questions about police competence and the judicial system in Thailand.

The court dismissed allegations of physical mistreatment and mishandling of forensic evidence, saying the forensic work was handled by respectable institutions and it found no proof of torture.

Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, and Miller, 24, from Jersey, had come to Thailand separately and met at the hotel where both were staying.

The two Myanmar men, both 22 at the time, were employed as service workers on the island, which is famous for its diving locations. The Thai lawyer for the defendants contended they were provided with inadequate translators when talking to police, in addition to being physically abused into making confessions.

A well-known Thai forensics expert also testified at the trial that the DNA evidence that was a major element of the prosecution’s case did not link the defendants to the scene. The expert also alleged that police had failed to properly control the crime scene and mishandled the DNA evidence.

Myanmar national Wai Phyo is escorted by police officers at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand. PHOTO: AP