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Zaw Lin and Wei Phyo, the two men who stand accused of the murders in Koh Tao last September, are innocent and should be cleared of all charges according to a team of investigators representing the Burmese Government who spoke to reporters in Rangoon on Thursday. During the press interview the team urged the public to monitor the case as it continues on the 10th and 11 of this month, on what are due to be the final hearing dates.
The two Burmese men are accused of the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, and the murder of David Miller, backpackers who travelled separately to the island last year. The gruesome murders have cast a shadow over the island and raised questions about tourist safety in Thailand and well as migrant worker issues.
The accused, who initially confessed to the crimes, later retracted their confessions saying they were tortured into admitting involvement in the crime. Htoo Chit, a migrant rights advocate who has been leading the investigation team formed by the Burmese Embassy in Thailand said the evidence presented during the case was overwhelmingly in favor of the defendants and that the Thai justice system should declare them innocent. “At first, they confessed because they were tortured and threatened in police custody, but they told us everything because they trust us,” Htoo Chit said. “I believe they are innocent and will be free soon, but we must monitor [the decision of the court] and whether they are acquitted.” He went on to explain that one of the most crucial pieces of evidence was the DNA testing administered by the Thai investigators that has come under increasing scrutiny. He says that DNA testing typically takes around 20 days where the tests in this case took only three days. Furthermore Thai forensic pathologist Dr. Pornthip Rojanasunan, who was called by the defense testified that the assumed murder weapon, a garden hoe, did not show any trace of the DNA of either defendants.
Those close to the case believe the two migrant workers are being used as scapegoats in a trial that has been riddled with ambiguity and accusations of foul play. During the proceedings the translator hired to assist with investigation was revealed to be a Rohingya Muslim who was fluent in neither Thai nor the defendants native Arakanese.
Yesterday (October 2nd) marked one year in jail for the two 22 year old defendants who maintain all they did on the night of the horrific murders was play guitar on the beach close to where the crimes took place and have told members of their support group that they had no knowledge of either victim prior to the news they had been murdered the following day, had no motive for hurting anybody on an island they rely on to earn money to provide for their families and pray for justice for the families of the victims. The two, who face the death penalty if found guilty of the crimes, have remained calm during the trial during which they have received support from their mothers, both widows, who have travelled to the island to support their sons. Neither of the accused have a history of any criminal activity.