– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is prepared to explain the Thai police conclusion – that two Myanmar workers killed two British backpackers on Koh Tao last month – to the Myanmar government, if asked, during his visit to Nay Pyi Taw tomorrow.
Permanent Secretary for foreign affairs Sihasak Puangketkeow said yesterday that Prayuth, who will make his first official foreign visit tomorrow, has ordered that the police report be translated into English.
“If asked during the visit about the investigation into the Koh Tao murders, the premier is ready to explain all the details about the investigation to the Myanmar leaders,” Sihasak said.
Meanwhile, senior Thai police are determined to conclude the case over the murder of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge on the resort island. They went ahead yesterday with moves to prosecute two workers from Myanmar despite scepticism from the media and public that they are guilty.
Officials from the Myanmar Embassy visited the two accused yesterday and said later the pair admitted killing the tourists. Surat Thani police handed their investigation report into the murders to public prosecutors yesterday.
The 850-page report recommends prosecuting the two Myanmar men – Maung Saw and Maung Win – whom police said had confessed to killing the British pair at dawn on Sept 15.
At a press conference in Bangkok, national police chief Pol-General Somyot Poompanmoung and rejected claims that the two men had been framed. He insisted all police work was based on scientific proof and confessions by the two Myanmar nationals. The press conference over the double murders on the tourist island would be the last by the police, he said.
Somyot detailed five factors leading to a decision to prosecute the two men – two unidentified witnesses who implicated the pair; positive DNA identification against them; surveillance footage camera of them, information from Miller’s mobile phone, and the pair’s confession, given to police with their lawyers present.
Pol Maj-General Suwat Jaengyordsuk said that an unnamed Myanmar friend who got the phone from the suspects told police he destroyed it, before putting it in a plastic bag and discarding it at the back of his home.
Asked about a conclusion by police that Witheridge did not have sex with consent, Suwat said forensic evidence showed that she was assaulted, and later violated sexually while she was still alive, because she was assaulted again, fatally. The other reason was that there was no evidence that there was anyone else present at the scene, so the conclusion was made that way.
Pol Colonel Prachum Ruangthong, chief of Koh Pha-Ngan police whose jurisdiction covers Koh Tao, read out the final police investigation report which said that both victims separately arrived in Koh Tao on September 12, and met at the Ocean View, where they checked in. Both victims watched a live football match at the Chopper Bar with friends before they went to the AC Bar. They were later found dead on the beach.
He said police went through all material evidence, including DNA samples, surveillance camera footage, and found no clues to the killings, before turning to residents on the island, and learning of three men who were singing and playing a guitar not far from the scene. Police began questioning a Myanmar man identified as Maw, who later implicated Maung Saw and Maung Win.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that officials from the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok are probing for more details about the case, though the suspects affirmed their confession during a meeting earlier yesterday. The officials were granted permission to meet the two migrant workers, who confessed to killing Witheridge and Miller.
“We met Maung Saw and Maung Win at Koh Samui prison. They told us they committed the crime while they were under the influence of alcohol,” said Aung Myo Than, a lawyer from the embassy. However, he said there were wide discrepancies between police statements and what they had said.
“A cigarette was found at the crime scene. The police announced that their DNA test results were taken from that cigarette. But the suspects said they did not smoke at the scene,” Aung Myo Than said. “They only said they smoked at a place where they were playing the guitar, about 25 yards from the scene. We went to the police station to give their statements.”
Another migrant, Maung Maung, was also detained as a plaintiff witness. But Aung Myo Than said the delegation was not allowed to meet Maung Muang.
Kyaw Thaung, head of the Myanmar Citizens Association, who was part of the delegation, said another discrepancy was injuries found on Miller. The suspects said they hit the man with a spade three times, as the woman was being raped and began to shout, Kyaw Thaung said. Yet the police stated that the man was stabbed in the jaw and cheekbone by a pointed item.
“They (the accused) said they did not think the man would die. There are differences between their statements and Thai police statements,” he said.
— Phuket Gazette Editors