Friday, October 24, 2014

Prosecutors stand firm on Koh Tao killings

The withdrawal of confessions made by the suspects in the murders of two British tourists on Koh Tao will not affect the way public prosecutors judge the case, the chief prosecutor reviewing the police investigation said Wednesday. 
Parents and family of migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, who were charged with the Koh Tao murders were already distraught as they arrived at Don Mueang airport Wednesday to try to visit the arrested men. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
"We prosecutors pay more attention to witness statements and evidence," said Thawatchai Siangjaew, director-general of the Office of Public Prosecution Region 8.
"More importantly, forensic evidence and statements given by medical doctors are treated as the most important elements when we decide whether or not to indict suspects."
Mr Thawatchai's comments came after the Lawyers Council of Thailand (LCT) filed a petition Wednesday officially recanting the confessions of the two suspects, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun.
The petition claimed the pair were tortured and threatened by officials, who forced them to confess to the murderof David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Sept 15.
Mr Thawatchai added that prosecutors are still waiting for the police to submit their final reports on the murders. Prosecutors earlier asked officers to redo parts of the investigation.
The first police probe report was handed to prosecutors but was about only 90% complete, he said.
Police spokesman Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri meanwhile insisted that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were not tortured or forced to confess.
He said the health of the suspects was checked by at least three doctors from different organisations, including the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, who did not detect signs of physical assault.
The parents of the two suspects arrived in Bangkok from Myanmar Wednesday.
U Tuntun Htike, father of Win Zaw Htun, tearfully thanked the Myanmar government and organisations in Thailand that are helping fight for justice on behalf of
his son.
He said his son had always been a good child and called on Thai authorities to make the right decision in the case.
Pol Lt Gen Prawut said police are willing to provide the suspects' relatives with assistance at their request.
He said British police have yet to contact Thai officers about coming to observe the investigation, following UK media reports that Scotland Yard will send detectives to Thailand. British police said in a statement released on Saturday that officers would work with Thai police "in ensuring that whoever murdered Miller and Witheridge is brought to justice in a fair and transparent way".
The National Human Rights Commission has called for the two suspects to be checked for signs of physical assault one more time.
But Witthaya Suriyawong, director-general of the Department of Corrections, said such a request could only be processed if there was a court order to back it up.
He said the department has made sure that officials from the Myanmar embassy, the LCT and the NHRC can visit the two suspects in prison, claiming this shows officials have nothing to hide.
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