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Men Charged with Thai Backpacker Murders Appear in Court

FILE - Workers from Myanmar, Saw, left, and Win, sit together, escorted by a Thai police officer.

The two Myanmar men charged with killing two British tourists in Thailand were taken to Koh Samui's provincial court December 26.

Both the prosecution and defense presented evidence to the court to examine and decide whether a hearing date should be set.

Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found dead on September 15 on a beach on the southern Thai island of Koh Tao.

Post mortem examinations showed both victims suffered severe head wounds and that Witheridge was raped.

Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, initially confessed to the murders but later retracted their confessions and alleged they had been beaten and threatened by Thai police.

A Myanmar investigator said last week that he believed the suspects were innocent but witnesses who might be able to prove their innocence would not testify as they feared the Thai police.

A committee set up to investigate the case by the Thailand embassy of Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, interviewed about 40 Myanmar nationals who were working in Koh Tao at the time of the murders.

Some of those interviewed were “strong witnesses” who might provide evidence to exonerate the accused, said Kyaw Thaung, who heads the committee, but he added that they had returned to Myanmar for fear of being implicated in the crime.

The murders dealt a blow to Thailand's vital tourism industry, which is struggling to recover after months of political unrest and a May 22 coup.

The Thai government had called on police to quickly solve the case.