Koh Tao murders: ‘Third man’ released, returning to Burma

Koh Tao murders: ‘Third man’ released, returning to Burma

Burmese migrant worker Maung Maung – held in Thai police custody for two weeks as a potential witness in the Koh Tao murder case – has been released and says he wants to return home to Burma immediately.

Meanwhile, a member of the Burmese embassy delegation at Tuesday’s court hearing on the case said he heard nothing in the witnesses’ testimonies that would implicate suspects Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin in the 15 September murder of British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

Speaking to DVB by telephone on Wednesday afternoon on condition that his location was not disclosed, Maung Maung said he was released on Tuesday evening, following his testimony in a Koh Samui courthouse that day.

“I testified exactly what I knew to be true – that I drank beer with my friends Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, that I left them on the beach to go to my girlfriend’s room, and that I found them sleeping in our room when I came home around 5 in the morning.

“I testified neither in favour of my friends nor the Thai police because I believe everyone should be treated equally under the law,” he said. “I have told the truth since the beginning. I would not say my friends committed that crime even if it were to cause harm to me.”

He said that while in police detention he was physically held down and intimidated during interrogation.

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Maung Maung was identified as the third Burmese man, alongside suspects Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, present at Sairee Beach on the night of the murder. He shared a room with the pair, as well as two other Burmese men, Nyi Nyi Aung and Aung Zaw Lin.

Maung Maung, Nyi Nyi Aung and Aung Zaw Lin were called as prosecution witnesses on Tuesday and gave testimonies in a preliminary hearing at a courthouse in Koh Samui, southern Thailand.

Moe Wai, a member of the Burmese embassy delegation that attended the hearing, said Nyi Nyi Aung and Aung Zaw Lin were mostly quizzed about a mobile phone belonging to one of the victims. The pair testified that they were given the phone by the suspects and decided to smash it with a hammer after being unable to use it, he said.

Moe Wai said the questioning of Maung Maung lasted from morning until around 3pm. He was shown screen grabs from CCTV footage that purported to show him, Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin riding together on a motorbike and buying alcohol at a shop on the night of 14 September.

Moe Wai said that nothing that the three witnesses said in their individual testimonies amounted to evidence that supports the allegations against Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin.

“None of the witness testimonies included anything that could implicate [Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin] as the murderers. It’s starting to appear that it wasn’t them,” said Moe Wai.

“The line of questioning from both sides was fair – we can say we are satisfied with the court hearing to a certain level.”

He said the judge told the court that under normal circumstances a murder and rape case such as this would take about six months, but due to the victims being foreigners and pressure from the Thai government, the court would try to conclude the trial within about three months.

Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin Oo were also present at the hearing on Tuesday when they were asked only to confirm their defence lawyers.

The hearing was attended by migrant rights groups and Thai lawyers.

The police investigation into the 15 September murders of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao has stirred much controversy and criticism in Thailand, Burma and the UK.

Earlier this week, the British minister for Southeast Asia, Hugo Swire, summoned the Thai Chargé d’Affaires Nadthavathna Krishnamra in London, where he reportedly stressed that “there was a real concern in the UK about how the investigation has been handled by the Thai authorities”, and “that it was crucial for the investigation to be conducted in a fair and transparent way”.

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