Friday, October 3, 2014

Thailand: Thai Police Formally Charge Burmese Laborers in Murder of British Couple

According to AFPThai police Friday (October 3) charged two Myanmar men with murder and rape after the killing of two British tourists on a southern island last month, in a case that has severely dented the Kingdom's image as a tourist destination.

The men have been charged with the murder of David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, a charge which carries the death penalty, and the rape of Witheridge, with police saying that their DNA matched samples taken from her body.

The charges come after police said the undocumented migrant workers had confessed to murdering David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, whose battered bodies were found on Koh Tao on September 15.

"The two Myanmar nationals are charged with murder (of both tourists), gang rape (of Witheridge) and stealing," Prachum Ruangthong, police chief of neighboring Koh Phangan island, told AFP.
The breakthrough follows intense scrutiny of Thai authorities, which had been accused in the British media of bungling the investigation in the days after the crime.
Earlier Friday police said the men -- identified only as Win, 21, and Saw, 23, from Rakhine state in Myanmar--had admitted to killing the Britons and gang-raping Witheridge.

COMMENT: Thai police have come under vigorous criticism since the double homicide on September 15 after less than systematic bad leads and not designating all of Koh Tao a crime scene so that they could ensure total control and guaranteeing that no suspect left the island. Within days tourists were seen taking "selfies" at the crime scene.

Although the uniforms of the Thai police are impressive looking and invariably adorned with gold braid and rows of ribbons, such trappings don't measure during a murder investigation.

The investigation of the double-murder of the two young Britons is hardly one of the Royal Thai Police's "finest hours."

"Two Myanmar suspects have confessed to killing the pair," Thai national police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told AFP. "DNA test results (from the two men) confirmed that the same DNA was found in the body of the (female) victim."

The third Myanmar man is believed to be a witness and is currently under police protection on Koh Tao, provincial police chief Kiattipong Khaosamang said. 
Earlier Friday investigators took the arrested men to the island to re-enact the crime scene, a common practice in Thai murder cases.
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"Both men raped the female victim," Kiattipong said earlier, adding the tourists were killed with a wooden stick and a garden hoe, which was found bloodied at the scene.
Thai authorities dismissed concerns that they had arrested scapegoats when questioned by reporters.
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The grisly double murders have delivered a fresh blow to Thailand's image as a tourist haven after months of political protests that ended in the May 2014 army coup.
Days after the crime, Thailand's junta chief and Prime Minister was forced into an apology for suggesting tourists in bikinis could be more vulnerable to attack--comments that caused an international outcry.
Koh Tao mayor Chaiyan Turasakul expressed his relief after the arrests, vowing to step up security measures on the island including registering all migrant workers and installing more CCTV on main roads.

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