Verdict on Koh Tao murder trial to be delivered on 24 December

By Kaung Kin Ko
17 December 2015
Verdict on Koh Tao murder trial to be delivered on 24 December
Two Myanmar migrant workers  accused of the killing of two British tourists Wai Phyo (L) and Zaw Lin (R) sit behind bars of a prison vehicle as they arrive for trial at a court on Samui island 8 December 2014. Photo: Sitthipong Chareonjai/EPA

While many people are eagerly awaiting Christmas holidays, Myanmar citizens, human right organizations, international observers, and media are waiting for a verdict in the Koh Tao murder trial to be delivered by the Koh Samui Court on 24 December.
Two Myanmar migrant workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun (aka Wai Phyo), face charges for the rape and murder of British tourist Hannah Witheridge and the murder of David Miller on Thailand’s Koh Tao in September 2014.
Htoo Chit, the founder and executive director of the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) and a member of the Myanmar Special Investigation Committee, said that he will hold a press conference regarding the case in Yangon, on December 18, International Migrants Day. At the press conference, he will speak not only about the Koh Tao murder case but also about the Ranong murder case in which Myanmar workers were arrested for a murder there. He will also speak about the Myanmar migrant situation in Thailand.
Htoo Chit, who is also an Ashoka Fellow, said members of Koh Tao special investigation committee which was formed by the Myanmar government, non-governmental organizations, and media will attend the hearing on 24 December.But in Thailand, recording or taking notes in court is forbidden, according to The Guardian.
Regarding the case, Htoo Chit said that he thinks the two Myanmar accused should be hopeful because they did not commit the crime and the Thai government does not have strong evidence against them.
Speaking about the case, Sein Htay Sun, Migrant Workers Right’s Network (MWRN) president, said, “We cannot know how the judges will decide. But we have made a strong case for the two accused.”
“The losing side can file an appeal against the verdict. Appeals can be made until the final stage, so the legal process for the case can last a few years,” he further elaborated, “This is just a basic court. After that, any side can file an appeal to a Court of Appeal. After the Court of Appeal delivers a verdict, any side can file another appeal to the Supreme Court. It seems that the case will end only after the verdict of the Supreme Court.”
Htoo Chit said the case is very important because the situation of millions of Myanmar migrant workers is also related. So, the Myanmar government should use various ways including diplomacy in order that the two Myanmar workers be released.
He said he does not think the two Myanmar workers will be punished. If they are sentenced, he will use various ways to achieve fairness for them.
Reports allege that the two accused were tortured during the interrogation process, but Thai authorities have denied the allegations.
Htoo Chit said that Thai authorities have failed to take actions against those abuses and pointed out weaknesses in DNA analysis. He said the case mainly relies on DNA testing, but DNA analysis was not systematic.
Speaking on the current Myanmar government's effort for the case, Sein Htay Sun said, “We can say that this is the first case that [the Myanmar government] has provided help. Myanmar authorities helped in searching for people who would act as witnesses. And they have helped in communicating with the Thai government.”
On the other hand, Htoo Chit said, “Frankly, the government's support for Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand is not sufficient. It is very weak! But generally speaking, we can say that there is progress in comparison with previous governments.
But one thing we can say is that in the history of successive Myanmar governments, this is the only case that the government has assisted Myanmar migrant workers. The government officially asked for help from the Lawyers Council of Thailand in order to protect its people,” he said.
Htoo Chit also pointed out that any Myanmar government should allocate enough budget for education, health and legal issues for migrant workers in foreign countries. He also urged the government to appoint skilled staff to handle migrant worker issues.
Both Htoo Chit and Sein Htay Sun have confirmed that the two Myanmar workers are physically and mentally fine.