Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun arrive at the Nonthaburi provincial court in Thailand on Thursday. Athit Perawongmetha/ Reuters
Thailand’s Supreme Court was set to rule on Thursday in the final appeal of two Myanmar migrant workers sentenced to death for the murder of two British backpackers on a popular Thai holiday island.
The bodies of tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a beach on Koh Tao island in September 2014. Police said Witheridge, 23, had been raped and bludgeoned to death and Miller, 24, had suffered blows to his head.
The murders on Koh Tao, a laid-back haven for divers, sullied Thailand’s image in the tourism industry, which accounts for about 10 per cent of the country’s economy.
Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were quickly arrested and later sentenced to death in 2015, a verdict that was upheld by the appeal court in 2017.
Thai police have faced widespread domestic and international criticism for their handling of the case and the evidence.
A pro-bono legal team defending the two men has said evidence collected by police was unreliable and not in accordance with internationally accepted standards, arguing it should not have been used as evidence to convict them.
The lawyers have also said that the accused were tortured and coerced into making confessions, which the two later retracted.
“The death penalty sentence against the two accused and their conviction should be reversed and quashed,” Andy Hall, an advisor to the two men’s legal team, said in a statement to media.
“DNA and forensics evidence relied on to convict Zaw Law and Wai Phyo, and sentence them to death in the Koh Tao murder case was fundamentally flawed and unreliable in terms of international standards.”
Thai courts have rejected allegations of torture and ruled that DNA evidence linked Zaw Lin and Win Zaq Htun to the crime.
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"It is either something they ingested which will point to poisoning, whether its food or drinks, or it is something they inhaled," says official.