Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Burmese civil society urges for a fair trial for migrant Burmese Workers in Thailand

In 2013 Thailand witnessed a large increase in the influx of international tourists. As per statistics, the number of tourists visiting Thailand were approximately 20 million last year and this figure is expected to rise even further. Amid large tourist influx Thai administration is faced with the critical responsibility of maintaining a vigilant tourist infrastructure for the safety and security of the tourists and thus a lage credit for the rejuvenated tourism boom in Thailand is owed to the infrastructure which stands in place.

Justice for two migrant workers in Thailand

Recently Thai tourism industry suffered a major setback as a result of the murder of two British nationals in Thailand.

This case has attracted widespread media attention following the arrest of two Burmese migrant workers as suspects by the Thai police.

While the Thai police had earlier stated that the 21 year old duo, had confessed to the murder of the two British nationals, recent developments surrounding the case suggest that the accused have alleged that they were tortured to unwillingly confess for the crime which they believe hasn’t been committed by them.

While the lawyers of the accused have also reiterated the stance of the two young men, presently behind the bars, the Burmese civil society organizations have largely criticized the Thai police and the process of investigation.

Observers of the case suggest that the Thai police has compromised upon the integrity of the investigation and the mechanism has involved several flaws. Another perspective which has emerged is the fact that the translator used by the Thai investigators in investigating the Two Burmese accused belonged to a group which has been a party to the much volatile conflict between the two communities in the Rakhine state.

While the accused are ethnic Rakhines, thus certain sections within Burmese civil society have accused the translator of a possible bias and miscalculation of facts, which were ultimately presented by him to the investigators.

Thus this has also sparked a reaction from Rakhine National Network which in a letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand has stated that they wants the case to be reconsidered, as it believes the two Myanmar nationals – Zaw Linn and Win Zaw Tun – ‘have been arrested unlawfully and they have been wrongly accused of the murder, which occurred in an area where many gangs operate.

Even while the Prime Minister of Thailand was on his first state visit to Myanmar, following the political crisis in Thailand,the talks featured a lengthy discussion between the two statesmen on the  status and the nature of investigation. In an environment of accusations and counter accusations, the Burmese Democratic Concern, a pioneering civil society organization which has strongly endorsed democratic reforms in Myanmar has also raised the issue with the Thai Government.

Well known activist and iconic leader of the Burmese Democratic Concern Ohn Mar Oo in her letter to the Royal Thai Police and the Interpol has rather adopted a more mature and pragmatic perspective on the case and the arrests of the two Burmese Nationals. In her letter to the Royal Thai Police and the Interpol, she has clearly demanded for a fair and free investigation into the murders of the two British nationals.

She has also further stated that if the allegations of the arrest being unfair are correct it would also mean denial of justice to the families of the Britist nationals and also a great misery for the families of the accused. Thus the letter further has raised concerns over the Thai nationals being used as, what BDC describes as “scapegoats”.

Therefore in a situation such as this if the accusation by the Burmese civil society members stand true then Thailand may well be violating several international legal conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee states that “fundamental principles of fair trial” may never be derogated from. by denying a fair trial to the accused and also to the victims.

Thailand is certainly a party to many of these conventions, especially those endorsed by the United Nations and an irresponsible handling of the case by the Royal Thai police and also the failure of the Thai diplomacy to resolve the issue with its Burmese counterpart may lead to the escalation of the controversy and the reaction to it may be much larger leading to international shame for the pristine South East Asian nation.

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