The murder of two British tourists on a beach in Thailand has caught media attention from around the world. With the focus now on the two Myanmar migrant workers charged with murder, Mizzima talked by phone October 8 to U Tun Tun Hteik, the father of Win Zaw Htun, 21, one of the two suspects.
The father lives in Kapi village, Kyaukphyu Township in Rakhine state.
Britons Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were murdered on a beach on the Thai island of Kao Tao, 410 kilometres south of Bangkok on September 15. Controversy surrounds the efforts by the Thai authorities to solve the case, with the Thai government pressing for closure given the negative effects the publicity has had on the tourism industry. The Thai police claim the two suspects are not scapegoats but migrant rights groups have raised concerns over whether they may have been forced to make confessions.
Mizzima: How did Win Zaw Htun go to Thailand?
Father: We sent him to State High School No. 1 Kyaukphyu Township for Grade 10 class after my son completed Grade 9. There he met with his friend Aung Zaw Linn whose parents are staying in Thailand. My son went to Thailand with his friend without asking permission from us. He informed us only when he arrived in Yangon just before leaving for Thailand.
Mizzima: How did he get money for travel expenses?
Father: The mother of Aung Zaw Linn phoned me when her son and my son arrived in Yangon, saying K300,000 will be needed for each of them to fly to Thailand. We transferred the money.
Mizzima: Did your son contact you while he was in Thailand?
Father: No, he did not. There are only one or two phones in our village at that time. He came back to the village during the Water Festival (Thingyan) and went back to Thailand in May. My wife asked him not to go back. But he refused, giving the reason he needed to work in Thailand.
Mizzima: Why didn't you want them to go to Thailand?
Father: My son is helpful and friendly. If someone asked for his shirt, he would take it off and give it to another, coming back home without his shirt. He is not a wild guy. His mother worried that he would be tricked by others in a foreign country. But I didn't worry about him as he is an adult.
Mizzima: How did you hear of the murder case?
Father: People from our village living on Koh Tao informed us that Win Zaw Htun was arrested for murder. His mother did not believe it. Her son would not kill somebody. After we saw it on the TV news, we believed it. My wife is unable to eat or sleep anymore since then. She could go mad.
Mizzima: What will you do to lobby for the release of your son? Will you go to Yangon or go to Thailand?
Father: We have no idea what to do. We have no money to go to Yangon and no knowledge about how to go there.
Mizzima: What did your son tell you about his job in Thailand?
Father: We know he was working in restaurants and bungalows.
Mizzima: Does he have any brothers or sisters?
Father: He has an older brother working on a fishing boat in Thailand. They do not live together. We have learnt that Myanmar officials went to Thailand in connection with his case. I want to make a request to officials from Myanmar and Thailand that I want to talk to my son.
Mizzima: Do you think he will be released?
Father: I really do not believe that my son would commit murder. I think he will be released if the investigation into this case is fair and systematic.