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Attorneys for two Burmese men charged with killing two British backpackers on the Thai island of Koh Tao are scrambling to prepare their defence after a court moved up the first hearing date by two months.
Koh Samui Provincial Court asked public prosecutors and lawyers for Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun (a.k.a. Wai Phyo) to submit their cases a week ahead of the 26 December hearing. Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo had pleaded not guilty on Monday.
The court had initially set the first hearing — where evidence would be examined and the first witnesses summoned — for 25 February, but pushed it forward to speed up the case that has been under intense international scrutiny.
The new schedule was confirmed by Tawatchai Siengjaew, chief of the Office of Public Prosecution Region 8, in an interview with INN.
The two are charged with murdering David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Sairee beach on Koh Tao in Surat Thani province, southern Thailand, on 15 September. They are also charged with raping Witheridge.
The two Burmese migrants had confessed the crimes to investigators and later retracted on grounds that they were tortured and threatened. Police have denied their accusations.
Thailand’s national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang met Keith Bristow, the director-general of the National Crime Agency, in London on Tuesday to explain the case to British authorities.
Police spokesman Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri, who was also there, said British police were satisfied with the Thai investigation that eventually led to the arrest of the two suspects in early October. The defendants have been detained at Koh Samui prison since 4 October.
The two wrote an open letter on 3 December calling for justice and again on Tuesday calling for help 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 letter, written in Burmese.
The families of the two Britons murdered on the resort island said on Friday the evidence against the two Burmese migrants accused of the crime was “convincing”.
This article was originally published in the Bangkok Post on 10 December 2014.