Thai human rights body to probe tourist murder charge

Newspaper editorial says no one believes those charged with the crime 'really brutally murdered the English tourists.'

Thai human rights body to probe tourist murder charge

World Bulletin/News Desk

The Thai police force is coming under further scrutiny for its methods, with the country's human rights commission now looking into the case of two Myanmar nationals suspected of murdering British tourists.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International called for an investigation into allegations that confessions were tortured out of the two migrant workers, and - come Sunday - Thailand's Nation newspaper were reporting that the human rights commission is now organizing a forensic team to send to the murder site.

The two suspects re-enactment of the crime combined "show business and tragicomedy," an editorial in The Bangkok Post claimed. Both men are in jail "although no one believes they really brutally murdered the English tourists."

Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found dead September 15 on Thailand's southern island of Koh Tao. Both bore deep wounds to their faces caused by a blunt instrument, while Witheridge had been raped. 

Since then, Thailand has been scrambling to find the murderer -- Koh Tao put under lockdown -- and then -- as tourist fears grew -- police pointing the finger of suspicion at a missing British tourist who had met the victims, and then the foreign laborers.

In the aftermath of their October 2 arrest, Thai Police Chief General Somyot Pumpanmuang said Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin -- both 21 years old -- had confessed. But the two men retracted their statements after telling a Myanmar Embassy official that they were tortured.

Lawyers have since said that the men had extensive bruising following police "interrogation" and called Saturday for the commission to push for British police to conduct independent DNA tests, following criticism from the three countries involved.

Richard Bennett, Amnesty’s Asia Pacific program director, has called for the Thai authorities to initiate an "independent, effective and transparent investigation into the mounting allegations."

He added that confessions extracted under coercion should be excluded from court "which is of particular importance in a crime that could carry a death sentence."

Raising suspicions that Thailand may have been looking for a scapegoat is the police's history of framing suspects in order to "show results" in difficult cases.  

In 1986, four Thai men were arrested for the murder of Sherry Ann Duncan, a Thai-American teenager whose body was found by the side of a road after she was abducted on her way home from school. All four were sentenced to death, only to be found innocent five years later. By then, one had died in prison, and two others died a few months after their release.

In 2000, an Australian was shot dead and his partner raped in Northern Thailand. Two members of an ethnic minority hill tribe community were arrested, confessed and sentenced, but five years later they were found innocent and released -- their lawyer saying their confessions had been tortured from them.

Further undermining the case is the Thai authorities allegation that the main witness -- a fellow Myanmar migrant worker who was with the two accused on the night of the murder -- witnessed the rape. But when Myanmar embassy officials interviewed him, he said that he left the men around four hours before the alleged crime.

On Thursday, Thailand’s foremost forensic expert, Pornthip Rojanasunand, criticized the investigation saying that the officers should have called a forensic expert from the beginning.

"By doing all crime scene and victims investigation themselves, police contradicted the principles of forensic science," she told the Manager news website.

As further questions are raised, the case's chief prosecutor requested Thursday that police refile a 300-page report, saying evidence was insufficient.

The police have since submitted "a completed report."


Last Mod: 12 Ekim 2014, 14:49
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