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At 10pm GMT last night Ch4 presented a documentary about six suspicious deaths in just over two years on the Thai island of Koh Tao. The program created by Make Productions had already been aired on Channel News Asia last month, however the UK program was billed to be a less watered down version.
In the main the one hour documentary focused on the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. One point that did come across was that Miss Witheridge and Mr Miller met on Koh Tao, it is a common misconception that they were travelling together. The police suggested that a possible motivation for the crime was that, the now convicted migrant workers, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo became aroused by seeing the couple in a romantic embrace on the beach. In fact there has never been any evidence to show there was any such romantic embrace and both Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo have consistently denied ever having seen either of them, together or otherwise.
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo have never denied being on the beach on that fateful night, along with several hundred other people. One aspect that was not mentioned during the program was two other western women who had been mugged by four Thai men on motorbikes the evening before in the very same spot.
The program did focus on the bungled investigation – and questioned the presence of Montriwat Tuwichian, the owner of the AC bar (the victims had been seen in earlier during the evening) and brother of the village headman.
Montriwat was seen in plain view marching over the rope that cordoned off the crime scene, he was also seen with the police next to the bodies. During the program he admitted to being on the scene but said he did not touch anything, he went on to say that the sight of the victims gave him no pleasure whatsoever and went so far as to protests his families innocence telling the crew neither he or his family had anything to do with the crime. His nephew Nomsod who has been the focus of online investigations was not mentioned in the documentary. Nomsod’s father Head man Worapan Tuwichian offered 700,000 baht to anybody who could prove his family was involved in the murders early on in the investigation. Feared by most, it was a strange offer when the likelihood of anybody presenting evidence against his family, that could result in his son’s death sentence had he committed the murders, is pretty much zero.
No mention of Eight Region Police Command Commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Panya Mamen was made. The policeman who at the very start of the investigation identified the suspect as Montriwat Tuwichian and said evidence which the police collected and examined proved he was involved in the murders before being booted off the case and sent to another part of the country. (Thai PBS Report)
However Major General of the Royal Thai police Suwat Jangvodsuk was part of the program, he told viewers he had apologized to Mr Miller for images of his son appearing on social media and went on to say that the Thai police were not the best in the world but they had done their best, he also said that the DNA tests were done to international standards but could not recall what those standards were, however he did confirm the tests were carried out in a laboratory.
During filming, producer Tom Stone did gain access to the prison for a clandestine interview with Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, however with a hidden camera and a Burmese translator it was difficult to get a real grip on how steadfastly the men protest their innocence. Mention was made about the total lack of any DNA samples from either men being on the murder weapon and Andy Hall, from the Migrants Workers Rights Network confirmed that then accused men had confessed to him that they had been brutally tortured into their confession made without lawyers being present, the confessions were later retracted.
Footage of the police interview with Wai Phyo was shown. One aspect of this the viewers may have missed was during the shown footage Wai Phyo was dressed in long jeans, a T-shirt and a long sleeved ‘winter’ top. Odd attire considering the temperature at that time, especially when the 15+ other people in the room were wearing light clothes and T-shirts. With the allegations of torture in mind one has to ask what, if anything, was being covered up here. One strange moment was depicted when the translator trying to get Wai Phyo to answer questions ran his fingers through Wai Phyo’s hair, a technique it’s fair to say has never appeared in any other crime documentaries.
Sean McAnna the Scottish man who accused the Montriwat and his police friend of trying to kill him before he left the island was also featured. He said, in a clip of a BBC interview, that he believed the mafia were looking for a scape goat and told him that he would hang himself in the island and they would watch him hang.
As well as the case of Mr Miller and Miss Witheridge the case of Christina Annesley, who died in January 2015 shortly after arriving on the island was covered. During his interview her father said that he had no idea how or why she died, he was baffled as to why no toxicology report was ever made when the Thai police said his daughter died from a fatal mixture of alcohol and medicine for a chest infection. He said he would only like to visit the island to see where his daughter had spent her final days but beyond that had no wish to be anywhere near the island. He also showed disgust that the last man to be seen with his daughter alive was never questioned by the police who claim to be carrying out in depth investigations into the seemingly endless deaths of foreigners. No mention was made that Christina Annesley died in a resort owned by Montriwat Tuwichian, the very man who was implicated in the murders at the start of the Witheridge, Miller investigation.
Another case that was discussed was that of Nick Pearson, who after being assisted to his room with a bad knee by his father at the end of an evening out, ended up dead in the ocean. The police believe he fell from his room but as his mother pointed out, it was a 50 foot drop, there was a huge boulder in the way preventing him from falling to his death where his body was discovered and his body had no broken bones. Incidentally the key to his room was found in his room so it is unlikely his trip to the ocean was planned.
A brief mention was made of Dimitri Povse, the 29 year old French man who managed to hang himself with a shoe lace with his hands tied tightly behind his back and an even more brief mention of Luke Miller was made, the British man police suggested had died jumping into a swimming pool, a fact that even one of the first paramedics on the scene disputes.
One thing that rings bells certainly in the cases of Miss Witherdige and Mr Miller and Luke Miller is the lack of CCTV evidence. Many cameras it has been said were not working on either night and those that were belong to private businesses so there has never been a legal requirement for the footage to be handed over to the police. Hardly encouraging if Koh Tao wish to repair their reputation for shoddy police investigations and instil any kind of confidence in the parents of young travellers.
The message from the documentary was clear, parents should do all in their power to discourage their children from visiting an island where six westerners have died in just over two years and seemingly nobody is happy with the investigations from the police.
The CH4 documentary focused on 5 Brits and one French man, they made no mention of the Swiss man who went missing snorkelling just after the murders of Hannah and David. When investigators looked for his body they found a white man floating in the waters of Koh Phangan, that turned out not to be him, the body found floating near
Donsak turned out not to be him either, however the third body found near Langsuan were the remains of Hans Peter Suter a man who had just completed his PADI Divemaster course – a strong swimmer who in order to gain his qualification would have completed his rescue diver course too. No explanation was ever given as to who the other two sets of remains belonged to. There was also no mention of the Burmese lady who was the daughter of the beach cleaner, and first on the scene. Although the authorities like to believe she left Thailand to return to her village in Myanmar, locals believe the mortal remains of a woman found on a rubbish dump in Koh Tao belonged to her.
The trial of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo was hardly touched on, certainly no mention was made of international news agencies scrambling for new translators when theirs had been scared off by the mafia, or the fact that at one point the trial was delayed by half a day due to no translators being prepared to come forward. No mention was made of local rumours about who actually committed the crimes or of the fact you would be hard pushed to find anybody on Koh Tao, Koh Phangan or Koh Samu who believe the Burmese men are guilty.
With, no doubt, only sketchy information being offered from those in the know, the CH4 documentary went some way to bringing the situation in Koh Tao to light, and for anybody who has not visited or lived on the islands it would have been a shocking insight to what on the outside looks like paradise. However nothing new came out for those who have knowledge or live on the islands where murders very often go unsolved, and sometimes are not even investigated.
Perhaps the next film crew brave enough to scratch the surface of the so called paradise islands in the Gulf should also investigate Samui and the murder of a Turkish man known as Ali in Chaweng, caught on CCTV in 2015, Volker Schwarges, 2014, a German Bar owner in Chaweng, whose murder by Samui teenagers was caught on CCTV but not one of them spent a single night behind bars. They may also want to look into the headless corpse that washed up in Trat this year and the bodies of one male and one female who recently washed up near Donsak as well as dozens of unexplained foreign deaths that are reported on a weekly basis round the country. But perhaps as the Mayor of Koh Tao pointed out, foreigners forget this is not their country, they do whatever they like, and this often causes their deaths, it’s all about fate……………………………….the sad fact is the fate of the friends and families of those lost on the islands is that they will never get closure while so much uncertainly hovers over the suspicious deaths. The fate of the two young Burmese is yet to be seen, if they are as innocent as many locals believe their nightmare is only just beginning as they sit, ever hopeful their legal team will one day prove their innocence, behind bars on death row in the notorious Bankwang prison known to locals as the Bangkok Hilton!