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THE KOH TAO MURDERS – IF THE VERDICT WAS WRONG TIME WILL NOT TELL

By the six o’clock BBC evening news in London yesterday the mews that Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin had been found guilty and sentenced to death was well down the agenda, coming after a car crash with one fatality, floods in Cumbria and a bus crash with no fatalities.


Any doubt about the prosecution of the two Burmese was dealt with by the brother of David Miller who was murdered together with Hannah Witheridge on the Thai island of Koh Tao was swiftly dealt a blow with the statement by Miller’s brother, read outside the court.

“We believe the result today represents justice for David and Hannah,” said Mr. Miller. “It is our opinion that the evidence against Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo is overwhelming. They raped to satisfy their selfish desires and murdered to cover up that fact. They have shown no remorse. We believe the correct verdict has been reached.”

The defence, were, well defensive, Andy Hall of the Migrant Workers Rights Association who had been co-ordinating with pro-bono lawyers from the Lawyers Council of Thailand, prefaced his comments by saying that he ‘respected the decision of the court’ a phrase I have had to use in the past to preface remarks about an abominable injustice in the Thai courts.

“The defence team position is that the DNA evidence as presented at trial was unreliable and was not collected, analysed and reported in accordance with international standards like ISO17025. This is the same for other case evidence. Significant evidence like Hannah’s clothes etc. were not even presented in court and/or even perhaps tested by the investigation officials.  

The prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were involved in the horrific crimes of which they were charged. On that basis the charges should have been dismissed and the now convicted men released. We will appeal and remain confident in the Thai legal system to deliver justice.”

To criticize the judgment could of course have warranted the critic a jail sentence. This is not allowed in Thailand. It is contempt. Judges who may be under 30 years old with only 2 years  law practice behind them have some of the same status as royalty, or even deity.  They are not addressed ‘M’Lud’ but “I am dust under your feet”.

Nevertheless the defence statement had all the aura of appearing to get the defendants off on technicalities. In the Thai system of justice and prosecution presentation gaffs and cockups, and even false testimony, are common.

It does not necessarily mean the defendants are innocent (though they would be acquitted in the west). It merely means that the police and prosecutor are often unaware of laws, procedures, or often just plain lazy and expect to be believed in a system where guilt is assumed before innocence.

It is good that the parents of the victims seem to have closure. It would be horrific if that closure came at the cost of two innocent lives.

I personally have never believed the police case. That was not because I was sold on the appearance of the two young Burmese who looked like they could hardly lift a hoe against the victims (and there was no evidence they did).

No this is south East Asia. The promotion of Buddhist ideals and love of all human creatures does exist but when murders happen they can be of the most obscene and violent in their nature; – frighteningly savage. And the Thai murder rate knocks spots off British statistics.

From a western point of view George Orwell can testify how inscrutable the Burmese can get. Any inmate of a Thai jail can tell you jhow savage the Thais can be.

In earlier days I might have said: “Time will tell”.  I won’t because time will not tell on this one. That’s just the way it is.  “Truth will never die,” goes the Thai expression, “but if you tell it you may certainly die.”

No-one in Thailand is going to come crawling out of the island jungle to reverse a court judgment.

Politically the problem is solved.

Does Scotland Yard have the answer? Are they sure that the DNA of the Burmese was found in Hannah and that no hamming was going on?

Perhaps now the trial is over they can say – after all that is not going to have a ‘Chilling Effect’ on Anglo-Thai police relations, which is why their report was not made available.

If the Thai police have laid a false DNA trail it will not be the first time. They were caught in the act trying to extract semen from a Burmese tour guide during the investigation of Kirsty Jones, who was murdered and raped in Chiang Mai nearly 15 years ago.

When that act was exposed their investigation appeared to collapse.   And that’s just another or many murders in which it looks like time will not tell in Thailand.

And like the cases of Hannah and David Kirsty’s mother knows that there are people out there who know the killer.

About the Author

Andrew Drummond

Andrew Drummond is a British independent journalist and occasional television documentary maker. He is a former Fleet Street, London, journalist having worked at the Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Observer and The Times.

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