The trial of two Burmese migrants accused of rape and murder got underway on the Thai island of Koh Samui on Friday with the pair reiterating their plea of innocence.
Nakhon Chompuchat, the leading lawyer on the defence team representing Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, from Arakan State in western Burma, said that the judge asked the suspects if they committed the crimes and, if not, if they knew who did.
“To the first question they answered, ‘We did not’, and then the judge asked again; ‘Do you know who did it? If you know, please tell me’. The young men replied that they did not. ‘On that night, we got drunk and then went home to sleep’, they said. The judge asked the question once again, and added: ‘Don’t be afraid to tell me’. Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun responded that it was just as they had said.”
Speaking in October, Aung Myo Thant, a Burmese lawyer contracted by the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, said that the suspects maintained they had been playing guitar and drinking beer on Sairee Beach on Koh Tao on the night that two British tourists, David Miller and Hannah Witheridge, were bludgeoned to death in a nearby cove.
Nakhon, a well-known human rights attorney in Thailand, said that both the prosecutor and defence presented witness lists to the Koh Samui court on Friday.
He said the prosecution presented a list of 60 witnesses while the defence has more than 30 witnesses. He said the questioning of witnesses is due to begin in July.
Andy Hall, a migrant workers advocate who was at court on Friday, told DVB: “The two young men looked buoyed by the sight of so many supporters – from the Myanmar embassy, their parents, monks, Rakhine [Arakanese] organisations, as well as the presence of five defence lawyers. However, they said they were dreading spending the next seven months in prison [until the trial formally begins].”