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Two Myanmar Men Confess to Killing British Tourists in Thailand

  • VOA News

Workers from Myanmar, Saw, left, and Win, sit together, escorted by a Thai police officer, during a press conference in Koh Tao island, Surat Thani province, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.

Workers from Myanmar, Saw, left, and Win, sit together, escorted by a Thai police officer, during a press conference in Koh Tao island, Surat Thani province, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.

Police in Thailand say two men from Myanmar have confessed to last month's gruesome killing of a British couple who were vacationing on a southern island.

The bodies of 23-year-old Hanna Witheridge and 24-year-old David Miller were found in September on Koh Tao island, 400 kilometers south of Bangkok.

Police Friday said two migrant workers from Myanmar, also known as Burma, admitted to killing both victims, as well as raping Witheridge.

Thailand's national police chief, General Somyot Poompanmoung said the two suspects face charges of murder, rape and theft.

"The suspects are foreigners who have killed two British tourists. These arrests came after the warrants were issued by the Samui provincial court after earlier investigations. There was clear evidence, such as forensic evidence and witnesses," said Somyot. “The suspects admitted that they are the real culprits so we have brought both to do a reconstruction.”

The men, identified by police as “Saw” and “Win”, wore white motorcycle helmets and handcuffs as they took part in the re-enactment, a common practice in Thai murder cases.

With two suspects in custody, police were gathering evidence and would seek an arrest warrant from a court, deputy national police chief Jaktip Chaijinda said. A third Myanmar citizen had been held since Thursday on suspicion of involvement, he added.

“Today the case should be finished because we want to clear this case up as soon as possible so that our tourism industry can bounce back,” Jaktip said.

Miller died from drowning and blows to the head, while Witheridge died from severe head wounds, post-mortem examinations by Thai forensic officials have shown.

Somyot attributed the crime to sexual jealousy.

“The suspects saw them kissing and were aroused, so they attacked and got rid of the man and proceeded to rape the female victim,” he said.

The double-killings rattled Thailand's normally thriving tourism industry, which was already struggling following a May military coup and subsequent marital law.

Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha was forced to apologize after suggesting tourists in bikinis were making themselves more vulnerable to attack.

“Suspicious”

Some rights groups have voiced concern over the lack of legal representation for the men.

“The suspects have been kept without legal representation. We still don't have lawyers observing the process directly,” said Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a human rights activist. “So we are suspicious about the judicial process in terms of these alleged confessions.”

Police chief Somyot said the suspects had made no request for lawyers.

“They haven't asked for lawyers. If they had asked for lawyers we would have provided lawyers for them as this is their basic right.”

Migrant workers, particularly from neighboring Myanmar, have been used as scapegoats for crimes in Thailand before. The rape and murder of 23-year-old Welsh backpacker Kirsty Jones in 2000 was blamed on an ethnic Karen guide from Myanmar who was beaten by police in an attempt to coerce a confession.

Despite a number of arrests, no charges have ever been brought over her death.

Thailand hosts about 2.5 million migrants from its poorer neighbors. Many take jobs Thais do not want in fishing, agriculture and construction, while many others work as domestic helpers or cleaners in hotels and restaurants.

Police denied making the Myanmar suspects scapegoats.

“In this sort of case we usually do not take risks and have never thought of bringing in a scapegoat because this is a case with interest worldwide,” Jaktip said.

Material for this report came from Reuters.

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