Andrew Drummond



A report by Solicitors International Human Rights Group has quietly condemned Thailand’s justice system after monitoring the trial of Burmese Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo for the murder of Briton David Miller and murder and rape of Hannah Witheridge.

Couched in polite terms the group calls on the authorities to allow the media to take notes and provide contemporaneous coverage of court cases, calls for better training of lawyers, asks for proper state aid for defendants, and an overhaul of the criminal code in relation to disclosure.

As the journalists were not allowed to take notes the defendants full rights to a public hearing were not complied with.

It also recommends an overhaul of procedures at police stations, a requirement that judges confirm the burden of standard of proof in each case, a review of the documenting of exhibits, a review of the standard of analysis and reporting in DNA cases, training and retraining of advocates, as well of course as the abolition of the death penalty.

This would appear to conflict with a statement in which they also said that the defendants rights to an impartial tribunal were complied with. (But see letter below).

But in short we can now discard the claim by Thailand’s police chief that Thailand’s police officers read from the same books as Scotland Yard, and we can assume that the Thai justice system is significantly flawed in the Koh Tao case and that the judges have not given a proper account explaining the burden of proof in their decision to condemn the two Burmese.

I could have added also the recommendation that a verbatim transcript must be taken in ALL court proceedings, that laws making judges infallible be revoked and criticism of judges’ decisions be allowed; and that the assumption of innocence also be applied.

I could further add that Royal Thai Police also be held to their promises to abolish crime re-enactments, and that the court system to be amended to allow continuous trials (ie day after day) rather than sitting one day a month or two in each case. This was promised but abandoned in all but high profile cases, or ones receiving international attention. Justice delayed is of course, justice denied.

The SIHRG recommendations are as follows – but you can read their full report at this link – which also includes the judgement.

Recommendations:1. An overhaul of the procedures for providing independent legal advice at policestations. There should be funding for the training of lawyers to carry out the role ofclient centred legal advisers to detainees at police stations. Also funding for lawyers tocarry out this role. 

2. We recommend that the Thailand Government institute an accessible system of Stateaid for the defence of serious cases where the liberty or life of the accused is atjeopardy and the accused does not have the means to meet the costs of his or her owndefence. 

3. An overhaul of the criminal code in relation to the prosecution duty to discloseevidence it relies on and disclosure of evidence in its possession that may assist thedefence. 

4. A requirement for all judgements in criminal cases to confirm the burden andstandard of proof the Court is applying. 

5. A review of procedures concerning the documentation of the movement of all exhibitsin a criminal enquiry. 

6. A review should take place with world experts on the current standards of analysisand reporting in DNA cases with a view to producing guidelines for all expertsworking for the criminal justice system in Thailand. The Appeal Court could receiveinternational expert assistance and issue guidelines. 

7. Training and regular retraining in trial advocacy for Thai lawyers should beimplemented by the responsible bodies. 

8. We recommend an amendment to the Criminal Code permitting bona fide journalists,legal commentators and international observers the right to take contemporaneousnotes of court hearings in Thailand. This is consistent with the requirement for “openjustice”. 

9. We recommend that a reasonable limit to the length of a day’s hearing in trials beprovided for in the Criminal Code of Thailand. 

10. We recommend the abolition of the death penalty. Even if the trial process is upheldon appeal and putting to one side whether the Defendants were correctly convicted,this is the sort of contested case where new evidence can arise and point away fromguilt. Future corrections or exonerations are meaningless if the accused are dead.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.