Police deny confessions retracted

Police deny confessions retracted

Police on Saturday denied the two Koh Tao murder suspects had retracted their confessions, as the troubled case took a new twist.

Pol Maj Gen Praween Pongsirin said that Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin had confessed to the murders of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on Koh Tao on Sept 15, a case which has attracted intense international scrutiny and criticism.

However, a Myanmar embassy lawyer had previously told the Democratic Voice of Burma website that the pair had been tortured in police custody and that they felt they had been set up for the crimes.

The deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 8 said the two suspects have maintained their confessions and repented their crime. Their widely reported retraction was simply a rumour, he said.

The police handling of the case has been widely criticised in Thailand and internationally.

Protesters demanding the suspects get a fair trial greeted junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha when he visited Myanmar last week, his first international visit since installing himself as prime minister.

Protests were also held outside the Thai embassy in Japan.

Pol Maj Gen Praween also denied that prosecutors had rejected the investigation case file as incomplete, saying the police's evidence was accurate and strong.

A panel of prosecutors had merely asked the police investigators to review the case and to maximise the punishment in light of evidence the suspects had tried to cover up their crime, he said.

Police have resubmitted the case file to prosecutors along with a higher recommended sentence.

The suspects were informed of the revised penalty recommendation, but police have not said how many years in prison they may face, he said.

It was now up to prosecutors to decide when to file the case in court, Pol Maj Gen Praween said.

Regional Public Prosecution 8 deputy director-general Tawatchai Siangjaew, head of the prosecution panel handling the investigation report, said the police case had holes in it, though he did not elaborate on what shortcomings prosecutors had found in the 300-page document.

Mr Tawatchai denied that they had thrown it out, saying only that the report was not complete. The panel ordered the police on Thursday to substantiate their report and provide more evidence.

The two suspects, detained at the Koh Samui district prison, were being monitored closely for fear they might commit suicide. Guards and inmates have reportedly been told to help monitor them for their own safety after they began to show signs of stress. Their food is also being checked.

Last week, the parents of British backpacker Nick Pearson, found dead on Koh Tao on Jan 1, told British media they were convinced he had been murdered and the evidence covered up.

Pearson's mother Tracy vowed to fight for the truth, saying: “It seems like they just want to protect their tourist industry but we need to know what happened.”

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