Prosecutors in Thailand may put the two young Burmese accused of the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on trial and convict them before Scotland Yard’s independent findings are made public.
Chief Prosecutor Paiboon Achawananthakhun has announced on the island of Koh Samui that after sending the case back three times to police the file was now complete and the two 21-year-old Burmese labourers could face court next week.
And if the same happens as in the case of 23-year-old Katherine Horton from Cardiff who was raped and murdered on New Year’s Eve 2006. In that case two Thai fishermen were sentenced to death within 18 days in a case which was also mired in controversy.
Wichai Somkhaoyai, 24, and Bualoi Posit, 23, later had their death sentence reduced to life imprisonment. But on Koh Samui itself many people believe they too were ‘scapegoats’ after an investigation in which several foreign tourists were also accused. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the men should be executed because of the damage to the country’s image.
In Thailand and abroad there has been widespread feeling that Saw Htan Lin and Win Saw migrant workers on Koh Tao are innocent of the murders and the rape of Hannah, from Great Yarmouth.
Paiboon was quoted saying: “The case is strong. It has to be in the face of society which is doubting it.”
And Thailand’s Prime Minister has said the police investigation was a ‘text book’ one, while Thai police said Scotland Yard had congratulated them on their work.
Earlier this month the two young Burmese wrote a letter addressed to the parents of Hannah and David:
“We are really distraught about the loss of your children, and we share your grief. But we want to stress to you that we didn’t do anything wrong, and this crime was nothing to do with us.
“In order that the truth can be revealed, we want to ask for help from all of you to ensure that we get access to information that the British government has. We would like this information to be shared with our lawyers so the truth can come out. We really want to express our thanks for your help.”
Scotland Yard which sent a senior detective and scenes of crime officer to Thailand has not released the report it has made, nor has indicated whether it supports or rejects the Thai prosecution. However information should be available for Hannah’s inquest in January.
By then, if the trial is held without adjournments, as in the case of Katherine Horton, the two Burmese may already have been convicted.
The defence of the two Burmese is being paid for from public donations and even the Burmese (Myanmar) Embassy has offered to pay bail. The offer was rejected.
Andy Hall an advisor Migrant Workers Rights Network which is running the defence fund said: “I was aware of the prosecutor’s decision to put this in court next week, but assume this will be the usual Thai process. But I am sure the lawyers will not let matters be rushed if it means an unfair trial.”
In the usual Thai process trials in Thailand can last for years,