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In a case chillingly similar to the Koh Tao murders,that received international and publicity, four more Burmese men stand accused of murder in Rangong in a case that has garnered little public and international interest.
In this case, four Burmese migrant workers were arrested over the murder of a 17 year old Thai female high school student on the night of September 28th 2015. According to the police Mr Moe Zin Aung, 19, Mr Zaw Lay, 25, Mr Mang Sane, 20 and Mr Kyaw Soe Win, 18 confessed to taking part in the brutal stabbing of Miss Orawee Sampaotong, however, like Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, who confessed to the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in Koh Tao, the men say they were tortured into confessing and after receiving legal representation retracted their confessions. “The police accused us of murdering a girl and when we denied the claims we were strangled and punched in the neck” said Kyaw Soe Win on behalf of himself and the other suspects.
According to interviews with the suspects, relatives and lawyers, the four were tortured on the days they were arrested 20th – 24th October 215. The alleged abuse includes being blindfolded, threatened with a gun, and suffocated with a plastic bag as well as being kicked in the genitals. Kyaw Soe Win stated that the police dictated the confession to the suspects, and said that they were forced to sign the confession out of fear.
The murder took place close to the Thai border with Myanmar, the victim’s mother is from Myanmar, and her father is Thai.
After a month of investigations after the girl’s body was discovered the police had made no arrested, however, on the 20th of October while fishing near Kurraburi’s sea port, over 100 kilometres away from Ranong province, 2 Myanmar migrant brothers were arrested and investigated by the Thai police, along with 2 other Burmese migrant workers.
The police investigation team confirmed that the murder took place at 21.37 on the 28th of September 2015, however, the suspect’s Thai employer stated that the suspects worked until after 8pm that night and provided CCTV as evidence. As with the Koh Tao case the suspects families believe their sons are innocent along with migrant community leaders who believe, like Koh Tao, if the suspects were guilty they would have run away never to return.
Like Koh Tao the police case leans heavily on DNA evidence. The police say the victim fought off her attackers before she was killed and their DNA was found under her fingernails. As with the Koh Tao case mystery surrounds this investigation, why did it take so long for the police to test the DNA and what happened to the CCTV footage of the men? After the arrests the accused employer handed over his CCTV footage of the men working, but the police now state that the CCTV did not contain images of their suspects. The employer said “I don’t understand and I am very surprised that my employees disappeared from the CCTV after I handed it over to the police, I saw them with my own eyes, it’s just not possible”.
As part of their evidence the police pointed to scars found on the face of Mr Moe Aung and believe they resulted from the victim defending herself, however fellow migrants confirmed that the scars were a result of a bicycle accident a few days prior. One of the suspects parents said she knew her son had been tortured info confession as soon as she visited him in custody, “he looked so tired” she said, “and very very afraid”.
In a further twist to the tale, two of the suspects are under the age of 18, they lied on their permit papers in order to gain entry to work in Thailand. Their defence lawyers believe they should be moved to a youth detention centre, as a DNA test confirmed the pair are between 15 and 16 years old.
The Myanmar government is aware of, and is paying attention to the case. They have visited the suspects and have offered support to their families. The court hearing has been postponed many times while the defence team prepare for the trial.
Since the murder the FED (Foundation for Education and Development) has prepared documents, witnesses and evidence for the case. The Defence lawyer’s team have prepared 20 witnesses for the trial including the Thai employers, relatives of the suspects, migrant community leaders, special Thai police and members of the Thai National Human Rights Commission. The defence team has also collaborated with local NGO’s, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, the Lawyers Council of Thailand, Human Rights Lawyers Association and the Myanmar Embassy in Thailand. The Thai National Police have prepared 17 witnesses and evidence, including crime medical experts, Thai national police officers and social workers from funeral services.
The Ranong case is very similar to the well-known and well publicized Koh Tao murder case, however the general public are not aware of this case as the victim was not a visiting Western tourist and this area of Thailand is not as well known as Koh Tao, popular with western tourists and therefore does not generally catch the attention of the international press.
Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand to this day are facing many problems regarding human trafficking, labour abuse and exploitation, extrajudicial killing and in many cases injustice. The Ranong and Koh Tao cases are not unique. This sort of treatment is problematic for hundreds of thousands of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand.
The FED strongly believe the 4 migrant workers in the Ranong case are scapegoats and thus innocent. Urgent funding is needed to ensure a fair trial and the FED in association with the Samui Times are asking the public to help.
If you would like to make a donation to give the men the best opportunity of a fair trial, the FED, the only source of funding for the men, can take donations to the following bank
Account Name: Foundation for Education and Development Account number: 806-207521-9
Name of Bank: Siam Commercial Bank Public Com.Lt
Bank’s address: 97/11, Rajdhamri Road, Lumpini Pratuwan, Bangkok, 10330, Thailand.
Thailand Bank’s swift Code: SICOTHBK
Address of the Account Holder: 20, Moo (4), T. Khuk Khak, Takuapa, Phang-Nga, Thailand 82220.
Having followed both cases the Samui Times hopes that the public will be generous and that this story is widely spread. International media pressure and public support is essential if there it to be any hope of justice for migrant workers who find themselves accused of murders in Thailand with no means to defend themselves, helped only by organisations who solely rely on publicly donated funds. The Samui Times has been threatened with court action for defamation and computer crimes in its reporting of one missing Russian girl on Koh Tao and the death of a Belgian woman that otherwise would have gone unreported and for labelling Koh Tao Death Island. The Samui Times would like to see justice in these cases, transparent trials and thorough investigations into the seemingly endless suspicious deaths in Thailand and calls for fair trials for all migrant workers, rather than attempts to hush the media, who dare to shine a light into the darker side of the Kingdom.