Myanmar migrant workers found guilty in Koh Tao murders case

24 December 2015
Myanmar migrant workers found guilty in Koh Tao murders case
Found guilty - Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin (front) and Wai Phyo (back) arrive for their murder case verdict at the Samui Provincial Court on Koh Samui Island, Surat Thani province, southern Thailand, 24 December 2015. Photo: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

Two Myanmar migrant workers have been found guilty and sentenced to death on Thursday for the murder of two British tourists on the Thai island of Koh Tao last year.
Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 22, were sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Hannah Witherridge, 23, and the killing of David Miller, 24, on the resort island September 15, 2014, plus two extra years for theft and illegal entry into Thailand.
“The defense team respects court decision but moves to appeal verdict,” writes migrant activist Andy Hall. “Defense position is prosecution didn't prove beyond doubt the main charges.”
The defendants had pleaded innocent, saying they were tortured by police to make initial confessions to the crimes, according to the Bangkok Post. Human rights groups repeatedly called for an independent investigation and raised concerns that the men might be scapegoats.
Miller and Witheridge's battered bodies were found on the resort island's Sai Ree beach. Autopsies showed that the young backpackers, who had met on the island while staying at the same hotel, both suffered severe head wounds and that Witheridge had been raped, according to the Bangkok Post.
The killings are said to have tarnished the image of the country's tourism industry, which was already struggling to recover after the May 2014 coup and imposition of martial law.
Rights groups have alleged the police investigation was carried out poorly and that there was no evidence to directly link the two Myanmar migrant workers to the murders.
Mr Hall says the defense team is now working to prepare an appeal against the sentence.