As Britain today prepares to bury the bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, who were murdered on the Thai island of Koh Tai, campaigns for a fair trial for the accused, and for murder victims in Thailand have gone global.
In Japan demonstrators paraded outside the Thai Embassy in Tokyo urging Thailand not to condemn innocent Burmese – and in London a letter was delivered to the Thai Embassy on behalf of the parents of Britons murdered in Thailand, by Yvonne Hart, whose son was murdered in Krabi.
The moves come as two young Burmese migrant workers sit in jail in Koh Samui accused of the double rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23. from Great Yarmouth, and the murder of David Miller, 24, from Jersey.
Just how the investigation which Thailand’s senior police described as a ‘perfect job’ will go from here is unclear. Thai Police methods are due to be put under an international microscope in the trials of two young Burmese Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, from Arakan State in Burma – in a prosecution which has yet to pass muster.
The Thai Police case has been given the blessing of approval by Thailand’s Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the head of a military controlled government which has not been shy at exposing police corruption in the country. His approval may have been premature, critics say.
|Yvonne Hart with son Richard Collins|
murdered in Krabi
The defendants and the main prosecution witness have been widely reported to have made statements that they were tortured. Thailand has Amnesty International and a wide range of international organisations on its back.
But it’s not only international organisations the government and police have to contend with – it’s also the Thai people themselves, who have been particularly rabid about their own police force on social media websites. From high society down to the bar girls of Pattaya the Koh Tao murders are a talking point – and it appears the majority of posters do not believe the Thai police.
That these murders happened in the Koh Samui Archipelago, also known as the Chumpon Archipelago, one of the top foreign long haul destinations for British tourists, appears to be no surprise to city folk who described the islanders as ‘fierce’.
It cannot be forgotten that southern Thailand was the base for practically all the pirates who raped, pillaged and murdered the Vietnamese boat people at the end of the Indo-China war.
Gap year students head for these islands in their droves. The night skies are full of stars, the waters are inviting, tropical palms sway in the light breezes, and there are limitless amounts of drugs and booze.
In fact the paradise island can be so inviting that people who have sampled little more than a joint, are often tempted to try something a little bit stronger.
|McAnna at AC bar|
The island police stand by and let people chill out.
They can make a few arrests a month – few if any of which seem to go to court – and still be rich.
Who controls this trade?
The same people who control the police and the businesses.
And that is why more and more Thais are calling for Scot Sean McAnna to come back.
McAnna,26, from Shotts, Lanarkshire, shocked everyone just a few days into the investigation began, by running out of the AC Bar in Koh Tao, owned by the local ‘head man’ and managed by his brother, and into a nearby 7/11 convenience store.
‘The mafia are trying to kill me’ he posted to Facebook with a picture of a bar manager and a policeman looking down on him while he was cowering behind a counter.
Earlier he had posted a salute to his friend victim David Miller adding that he knew David went to Hannah’s aid.
That is indeed what Miller’s father back in Jersey agrees with and the family are in touch with the Foreign Office on a regular basis.
But Sean McAnna was no innocent abroad. Up until September 15th the island’s ‘influential people’ were his mates. He had been visiting Koh Samui for years. He had in fact moved there. He had been employed in bars there. He referred to his as home.
He was also the happy strum along guy who greeted new tourists and who gave them the Koh Tao spiel. He was almost a spokesman for the island – and could tell people exactly where to get what they needed.
But he also had a darker side which is reflected in his music. Here are a few lines to one of the songs he wrote. McAnna worked both in the AC bar and the Karma Bar in Koh Tao.
“There’s a place I used to go when I need to be alone in a sort of spiritual wayOutside to a bar where the girls are golden and cocktails blueMake sure you eat, you need your strength, son (unintelligible) but you’re number oneDon’t fuck it up, no blood to clean upBut you’re worse going home Where you’ll feel so aloneWhen I’m asked how I’m doing, yeah I’ll lie
I wonder what the deal is, will I be rememberedWill (unintelligible) still be there for us once I’ve been rendered?Do I (unintelligible) in a Karma BarDo I (unintelligible) take it too farAsk me how it feels to know those days are goneAsk me if I’m going on my next trip aloneAsk me what I’m doing (unintelligible) street singingEverything I do is a crimeAsk me if I’m feeling fineI wonder what the deal is, will I be remembered
|On the Thai forum Pantip Plaza|
It is a matter of conjecture the McAnna might have been the weak link in the island’s code of silence. He may have known too much which is why some people, as he claims, threatened to hang him from a tree up a mountain.
It is clear he thought that he was going to die that night. But with the arrival of the media on the island he had in fact an escort to the ferry and home.
And getting rid of him may. to those that mattered. may have also served the same purpose.
He was no longer part of the investigation. He was irrelevant. Actually worse than that – the local community of DJs then characterised him as a bad foreigner using pictures from his own Facebook account, dressed as a ladyboy, or in a state of drunkenness.
Currently an investigation is under way in the UK headed by a Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Hayward but Britain’s official line is.
“We are concerned about the reports of allegations of mistreatment and expect these to be dealt with appropriately. The investigation and judicial process remains a matter for the Thai authorities, but we expect it to be conducted in a fair and transparent way.”
Yesterday British Ambassador Mark Kent called on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss the matter.
A petition is out there urging the British authorities to take over the case. This is not going to happen. Nor are British police going to interfere with the Thai judicial system.
The only way they can get involved is by invitation – but they could send material which they feel is relevant to the enquiry.
Foreign police liaison officers in Bangkok privately indicate where the fault lies, (but on what they base their assumptions is not known) and where Thai police should be looking. But the repercussions should they open their mouths would be massive.
They are also aware of the chequered history of some of the police officers who have risen to the fore in this enquiry. They include officers they would not certainly seek assistance from in international matters.
Koh Tao is getting more more like the mythical island in Alex Harland’s the novel ‘The Beach’. An island breathtaking in its beauty – but with dark secrets.
Meanwhile in Britain the parents of another young British tourist found dead on Koh Tao say they are suspicious about his death. The parents of Nick Pearson, 25, from Mickleover, Derby, were told their son had taken a fall and drowned on New Year’s Day. They say the wound he received are not consistent with the reports they were given., according to the Daily Mirror.