Koh Tao murders: Dr Porntip to examine DNA evidence

Koh Tao murders: Dr Porntip to examine DNA evidence

Thailand’s Koh Samui provincial court on Thursday ordered police to hand over DNA samples to the Central Institute of Forensic Science’s director Dr Porntip Rojanasunand at the trial of two Burmese migrants accused of murdering a pair of British tourists last year.

Andy Hall of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), which has been assisting and advising the accused migrant workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, said the defence team is “delighted” by the ruling to reassess the biological evidence.

“We are really delighted,” he told DVB on Thursday. “Much more than what we expected in the beginning … We were very concerned that this case would be a miscarriage of justice. It was being rushed, being hurried. And now we feel more confident that justice will be done.”

A re-enactment of the crime was held at Sairee Beach on Koh Tao on 3 October 2014. (Reuters screen grab)
A re-enactment of the crime was held at Sairee Beach on Koh Tao on 3 October 2014. (Reuters screen grab)

In addition to being a widely respected forensics expert, Dr Pornthip holds a degree of celebrity status in Thailand. She previously cast doubts on the case by criticising the police’s bungling of the crime scene on Sairee beach on the island of Koh Tao where English backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were found dead on 15 September last year.

“The opportunity for a fair trial has really increased, and hopefully we can get to the bottom of the facts on whether these two boys were involved in this case or not,” said Hall, adding that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun appeared in good spirits.

He said the defence team was also trying to have CCTV camera footage, which they believe is crucial to their case, admitted to the trial.

Speaking to Reuters outside the courthouse, Nakorn Chompoochart, the head of the Burmese youngsters’ defence team, said, “The court agreed that the DNA evidence is important in this case. The defence lawyers want an independent forensic organisation to look into it. Those experts are also witnesses for the defence team. If our witnesses can go through all the evidence, it will help them better understand the case, and then they can testify with confidence.”

Thai police had previously submitted DNA samples of the two Burmese migrants, both 21 at the time of the incident, which they said were taken from the female murder victim who was also raped at the scene.

The Burmese embassy’s special delegation tasked with assisting the defendants did not show up at the hearing, Hall said, and called for “more engagement by the Burmese embassy and the British government”.

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Thai police have nevertheless remained confident that the DNA evidence will prove that the Burmese pair were the murderers. 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.

The defendants have been detained at Koh Samui prison since 4 October. They have maintained their innocence throughout, and say they only confessed after being subjected to torture and intimidation by Thai police officers while in detention.

The two wrote an open letter on 3 December calling for justice and have requested assistance from Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We were not involved in this crime. We think it is injustice that we are in jail. We want justice and equality,” said the open letter, written in Burmese.

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