Death of two UK backpackers on Ko Tao of Surat Thani province stunned the world ad pt the spotlight on Thailand regarding the safety of women and tourists.
The defence in the Koh Tao murder trial being held in Koh Samui has raised the issue of torture in dramatic testimony given by one of the accused men from Burma.
This week saw the defence team for the two Burmese men accused of the murder of two UK holidaymakers on Ko Tao island score a few notable victories when it also emerged that DNA on the murder weapon found at the scene did not match that of the two men while the court in Koh Samui also held vivid testimony from alleging he had been tortured.
As the trial of the Burmese migrant workers accused of the murder of UK foreign nationals Hannah Witheridge 23 and David Miller on the 14th of September last year on the island of Koh Tao continued in Samui, evidence was presented in court that the two Burmese men are claiming that their alleged confession to the murders was obtained through torture.
One of the Burmese men Zaw Lin claims that he was stripped naked and beaten by authorities and was also threatened with having his teeth pulled out or being killed at sea.
Awoken in the early hours to find 10 men in the dormitory says suspects on trial
In dramatic testimony to the court, the Burmese man claimed the police extracted the confession from him by blindfolding him and suffocating him with plastic bags until he collapsed.
International human rights observers attending the trial in Ko Samui have indicated that the allegations of police abuse if proven would constitute torture.
Zaw Lin told the court that he was awoken by police in the early hours of November 2014.
THe Burmese man said that he found 10 men gathered in the dormitory he was sharing with other workers.
‘They kicked me in the face with their feet and slapped me around the head and when I said No they hit me again,’ Zaw Lin is reported as telling the trial.
The Burmese men revealed that during the interrogation in October 2014, two weeks after the bodies were found on the beach in Koh Tao police put him on the telephone with his co-accused Wei Phyo who told him ‘They almost killed me.
I am almost dying” Both Burmese men are claiming that they confessed to the rape and murder of Miss Witheridge 23 and the beating and killing of David Miller when they were informed that such an admission would only mean they would go to prison for four or five years.
The startling revelations were made during ten hours of testimony on Wednesday last at the court sitting in Koh Samui.
International observers attend trial
The trial is being attended by Kingsley Abbot of the International Commission of Jurists along with other human rights lawyers.
Mr Abbott told the press: ‘Based on what we heard today that he was stripped naked, had plastic bags placed over his head, blindfolded, made to fear for his life in order to extract a confession, it is very likely to meet the definition of torture as defined by the Convention against Torture to which Thailand is a party.’
Mr Abbott said that the allegations made in court must be subject to a serious enquiry by the court and if the claims were proven then any evidence obtained as a result of the torture should be set aside.
Both Burmese men withdrew their alleged confessions some weeks afterwards when they were given access to legal representation and they have vehemently protested their innocence from that point.
Cellmate and doctor called by defense to give evidence on Ko Samui with parents of victims in court
A former cellmate at the prison in Koh Samui was called to give evidence as well as a prison doctor. Both witnesses testified to observing wounds and marks on both the accused Burmese men after interrogation.
During the court session in Ko Samui, Zaw Lin’s mother was present to hear the testimony of her son. As Zaw Lin recalled the abuse he suffered, his mother is reported to have left the court and vomited outside.
The parents of the young UK man murdered in Ko Tao were also present in court to hear testimony.
They told reporters that they were happy to have the opportunity to hear court proceedings first-hand.
‘We spoke to David just six hours before he died and he was so happy. He said that he absolutely loved the place and it was so beautiful and he was full of his trip,’ his mother Sue Miller said.
Burmese accused claims he simply went for a swim at 2 am on the morning of the murders
In the early hours of the 15th of September 2014 Zaw Lin, one of the Burmese men accused told the court, that he and two friends had been on the beach where they had bought beer and cigarettes. He recalled that they were playing the guitar about 16 metres from where the two young Britons were found later that morning.
Zaw Lin told the court that he had simply gone for a swim at 2 am before going home to bed on that fateful morning. A Third man who was in the company of Zaw Lin and Wei Phyo at this time was never arrested and police told the court that they had lost contact with this individual.