Official translator at Nonthaburi Provincial Court says that the pair were sad and worried after hearing the verdict handed down today. Their legal team has 60 days to apply for a royal pardon for the men to prevent the death sentence from being carried out. The Burmese men are being held at Bang Kwang Prison.
Burmese migrants Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun who were convicted in 2015 of the murder of UK nationals Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were brought to court today. They were condemned to death by Thailand’s Supreme Court when it made the final legal ruling on their case upholding their convictions and sentences handed down in December 2015. It leaves the two men now with only one legal recourse and that is an appeal to the Thai King within 60 days for a royal pardon which is being pursued.
The Thai Supreme Court on Thursday in a final ruling has upheld the conviction and death sentence on two Burmese migrants convicted of the murder of UK nationals Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on the holiday island of Koh Tao on the night of September 15th 2014.
The pair were convicted and sentenced by a court sitting in Koh Samui on Christmas Eve 2015, following a lengthy trial which was attended by leading human rights lawyers as part of an extensive pro bono defence legal team as well as the world’s media and the families of the two murder victims.
Supreme court dismissed extraordinary claims by defence lawyers who questioned the 2015 verdict
Today at the Nonthaburi Provincial Court, the Supreme Court, in its decision, upheld the convictions of both men and dismissed a range of questions raised by the defence and presented to the court centred on the DNA analysis and confessions from both of the defendants. The court also threw out claims that the confessions were obtained by torture and that Thai police had set out to frame the two Burmese migrants for the crime essentially using them as scapegoats.
Conviction in 2015 led to protests in Myanmar and Thailand but UK families expressed confidence in the Thai police and the case against the two men
The controversy surrounding the convictions of both men erupted after their trial ended on the 24th December 2015 with protests in Myanmar and even in Thailand. However, the UK families of the murder victims particularly the family of David Miller, have steadfastly supported Thai authorities and are reported to have confidence that the Royal Thai police found the correct people responsible for the deaths of their loved ones and the process that led to their convictions.
UK police team from Scotland Yard flew to Koh Tao
UK police at one point were involved in the case and a special team flew to Koh Tao from Scotland Yard to provide assistance. This followed top-level exchanges between Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The UK National Crime Agency helped provide crucial information to identify the iPhone linked to the two Burmese men as belonging to murder victim David Miller.
One of the Thai police officers involved in the investigation Police General Jarumporn Suramanee pointed out at the time, that police also had access to nearly 360 CCTV cameras when investigating the case.
Appeals court upheld the verdict in 2017
In 2017, the Thai Appeals Court rejected an extensive appeal against the 2015 court verdicts which also relied very much on questioning the basis for the police DNA evidence. This was also the central tenet of the appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal is understood to have also questioned if the investigation methods used to produce the evidence that convicted the pair from Myanmar were legal. Today’s response from the Supreme Court was unequivocal that it was.
Supreme Court appeal focused on DNA evidence that linked both men to the attack on Hannah Witheridge
After the Appeal Court’s rejection two years ago of the case presented by the defence, defence counsel Nakhon Chompuchat indicated that they would focus in their appeal to Thailand’s highest court on the DNA forensic and medical autopsy which established a link between the body of 23-year-old Hannah Witheridge and the accused men Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun.
Two Burmese held at Bang Kwang Prison
The convicted murderers have been held on death row in Thailand’s infamous Bang Kwang prison in Nonthaburi since 2015. On Thursday, they were transported by Department of Corrections officers to Nonthaburi Provincial Court where the result of the appeal was read out to them. It is reported that the two men showed no reaction when it became clear that the convictions and death sentences were upheld in the final legal judgment.
Murder of the UK nationals cast a shadow over Thailand’s huge tourism industry
The murders on Koh Tao in 2014 started a wave of negative press in relation to Thailand and its huge tourism industry which now accounts for up to 12% of the country’s GDP. The Thai government has very successfully marketed the kingdom as a destination for young western twenty-somethings to tour and experience a completely different culture. The tragic case of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller appeared to cast a shadow over this as it became a worldwide news story.
Burmese men ‘sad’ and ‘worried’ over the judgment
In Nonthaburi on Thursday, despite their stoic reaction to the verdict, an official translator assigned to the pair told the media that they expressed sadness and worry at the verdict which is well-founded since on June 18th 2018 last, Thailand conducted its first execution of a fellow inmate on Bang Kwang’s death row, a 26-year-old gang member who had murdered another youth for a smartphone. The execution was carried out without notice or warning and was the first in nine years.
On Thursday, their lawyer explained that they will now seek a royal pardon for the two men who have 60 days to make such a request during which time they may not suffer the ultimate penalty.