THAILAND: TWO MYANMAR MEN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR MURDER OF BRITISH BACKPACKERS
|Zaw Lin (left) and Win Zaw Tun
December 24, 2015: Two Myanmar migrant workers have been sentenced to death by a Thai court for the 2014 murder of two British backpackers on Thailand's Koh Tao island.
Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun will face execution for the killing of David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the picture-postcard resort island in southern Thailand.
"Both defendants are guilty of murder for which the penalty is the death sentence," an unnamed judge told the court, adding that they were also "found guilty of rape and conspiracy to hide the crime".
Both men, who arrived at court with their hands and legs shackled, deny killing the British pair, whose battered bodies were found on a beach on September 15, 2014.
Defence lawyers have accused Thai police of bungling their investigation and using the Myanmar migrants, both aged 22, as scapegoats.
Within days of their arrest Thai police said the pair had confessed.
But prosecutors said the evidence against the men was rock solid, including DNA traces found on Ms Witheridge's body as well as the suspects being in possession of Miller's phone and sunglasses.
Miller was struck by a single blow and left to drown in shallow surf while Witheridge was raped and then bludgeoned to death with a garden hoe.
Miller's parents and brother were at the court on Koh Samui but Witheridge's relatives did not make the journey to Thailand.
Rights groups say the case reflects a wider trend of low-paid migrant workers from neighbouring countries, including Myanmar, being blamed for crimes in Thailand where the justice system is easily bent by wealth and power. (Sources: abc.net.au, 24/12/2015)