The trial of two Burmese migrants accused of murdering a pair of British tourists is set to resume on 30 April on the island of Koh Samui in southern Thailand.
Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun are charged with murdering David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Sairee beach on the neighbouring island of Koh Tao on 15 September. They are also charged with raping Witheridge.
The case has drawn much international attention, and various observers have accused the Thai authorities of framing the Burmese youngsters, both 21, and organising a cover-up after members of a local ‘mafia’ clan were implicated.
Defence and prosecution lawyers at Thursday’s hearing are expected to update the court as to the progress of preparing witnesses.
The court is also expected to consider the recent requests by the defence team that physical evidence be re-examined by the Ministry of Justice’s Central Institute of Forensic Science, and for more information provided regarding the process of DNA analysis.
Thai police have nevertheless remained confident that DNA evidence will prove that the Burmese pair are guilty. Results of an investigation by British police from Scotland Yard were never made public, but the families of the two murdered Britons have reportedly been in contact with British authorities and say they are convinced Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun are guilty.
A lawyer representing the Burmese migrants told DVB in October that the pair told their legal team and members of the Burmese embassy that they were tortured into giving confessions.
Meanwhile, some 100 Burmese migrant workers joined a workshop on Koh Tao on Monday and Tuesday to discuss migrant rights.
Participants in the workshop, organised by the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) and the Human Rights and Development Foundation, on Tuesday set out an eight-point list of demands to Thai authorities, including: regular pay for migrant workers; the opening of a Burmese migrant passport centre; preventing police and officials from acting above the law; and conformity to labour regulations.
A letter with the demands was handed over to the Koh Tao municipal director on Tuesday.
“I believe that organising networks here will be very helpful in promoting the rights of migrants,” said a Burmese organiser of the event. “Many migrants on the island live in fear. They do not know their rights and are afraid of the authorities.”
Some 4,000 Burmese work on Koh Tao. Organisers said most did not attend the workshop because they feared repercussions from the local police.
One attendee told DVB: “Previously, I would have been afraid to come to a workshop like this. But if both migrant workers and officials are aware of and respect labour rights, this island will be a safer and better place for us.”
Andy Hall, a British activist working on migrants’ issues for the MWRN, said, “I have been to this island many times in assisting [Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun] during the hearings in the murder case. During that time, I have learned more and more about the plight of migrant workers on this island which is so popular among foreign tourists.”