Koh Tao: Court orders new evidence tests (SAT UPDATE)

Koh Tao: Court orders new evidence tests (SAT UPDATE)

The defence team for the migrant suspects in the murder of two British tourists on Koh Tao won a potentially significant victory yesterday when the Samui Provincial Court ordered that forensic evidence must be sent for reexaminination.

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Saturday morning update

People walk on the stairs leading up to the Koh Samui courthouse on the Thai resort island of Koh Samui on July 9, 2015. The high-profile trial of two Myanmar migrants charged with killing two British holidaymakers opened July 8 on the holiday island of Koh Samui. Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun are accused of murdering 24-year-old David Miller and of the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the southern island of Koh Tao in September. AFP PHOTO / Jerome TAYLOR

Note: I have kept our coverage in one long story because the vocabulary will be very useful to English language learners in reading other similar stories.

Be your own investigator

Nowadays, we have many sources for gathering information and in a case like this one, the twitter accounts of those at the trial can be very useful. Looking at the twitter conversations this morning, we find that the court order to retest evidence may be less useful to the defence than expected. At the moment, it appears only solid items like a hoe, shoe and bags are available for retesting. Crucial DNA evidence may have been completely used up during testing, but that still needs to be confirmed by forensic sources in Bangkok.

Here are some twitter accounts you can follow for this case: Andy Hall @ATomicalandy, @JonahFisherBBC, @jonathansamuels  Sky news, @JeromeTaylor  AFP

For the view from Myanmar, check out the Myanmar Times: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/15433-mistakes-continue-to-mount-at-koh-tao-murder-trial.html

Meanwhile, here is this morning's story from the Bangkok Post.

Court orders retesting of evidence

Achara Ashayagachat

The Samui Provincial Court has ordered remaining forensic evidence in the Koh Tao tourist murders case to be sent for reexamination at the Justice Ministry’s Central Institute of Forensic Science in line with a defence request.

The court, in Surat Thani, yesterday ordered public prosecutors to work with investigators to send all remaining forensic evidence found at the crime scene, including a shovel, for forensic retesting.

A legal team sent by the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand is defending Myanmar migrants, Zaw Lin, 22, and Win Zaw Htun, 21, charged with the rape and murder of British nationals, Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, in September last year.

The defence team said it has received forensic and autopsy reports from UK authorities that were “not consistent” with findings obtained from Thai authorities. Meanwhile, some media reports emerged yesterday saying certain evidence was no longer available.

Asked about the missing evidence claims, national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Poompunmuang said foreign reporters not proficient in the language might not fully understand police when they communicate in Thai.

Evidence requiring DNA testing is normally sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM) and when the tests are finished, the results are recorded and a copy sent to police, he said.

This explained why police no longer needed to keep the DNA samples with them, he said.

The misunderstanding about possible missing evidence occurred when the defence lawyers asked to have DNA evidence re-examined by a different organisation and the police responded by saying they no longer had the evidence, he said.

“Any investigator would give a similar reply because the evidence is with the IFM,” Pol Gen Somyot said.

The BBC reported on its website yesterday that the court is expected to hear what happened to vital DNA evidence that links the two Myanmar defendants to the body of one of the victims.

Thai police had previously told the BBC how some crucial DNA evidence in the case cannot be retested because it no longer exists, said the report.

Pol Col Somkiat Kaewmook, deputy chief of Surat Thani provincial police, said: “Some forensic materials were used up in the testing process, which means they do not exist.”

“But those remaining that are solid, sizeable, and returnable will be there and we will send them to the court.”

Pol Gen Somyot said re-examination of the DNA evidence in the case is still possible.

The bodies of Miller and Witheridge were found on a beach on Koh Tao last September, sparking a major police investigation and intense local and international pressure to find those responsible. Zaw and Wai (also known as Win Zaw Htun) were arrested several weeks later.

They initially confessed to the crime but later retracted their statements.

Note: Today's audio file follows the complete text which includes previous stories

Friday afternoon update

Evidence "not lost"

Several international media organisations quoted Lt Col Somsak Nurod yesterday as saying the certain key DNA evidence was no longer available. Today, that was strongly disputed this morning by his boss, national police chief  Somyot Poompanmoung.

From AP:

Authorities have possession of crucial DNA evidence in the murder trial of two Burmese migrants accused of killing two young British tourists on a Thai resort island, the national police chief insisted Friday, disputing reports that it might have been lost.

``It is not lost,'' national police chief Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung told reporters in Bangkok. ``I repeat: Nothing is lost.''

Somyot called it a misunderstanding that stemmed from foreign media covering the case who might have poor Thai language skills.

Somyot said the local police investigator, Lt Col Somsak Nurod, was vague in his testimony and therefore was misinterpreted. Somsak was no longer in possession of the DNA evidence since he collected it and then sent it to the Forensics Medicine Institute in Bangkok, Somyot said.

``Nothing is missing. It's a misunderstanding,'' the police chief said.

Note: Thai PBS quoted the Thai forensics team in Bangkok as saying they were scheduled to testify in the case about 10 days time.

Key forensic re-testing sought

Achara Ashayagachat

Surat Thani:  Defence lawyers expect the Koh Samui Provincial Court will decide Friday whether to allow a re-examination of forensic evidence in the trial of two Myanmar nationals accused of murdering two British tourists on Koh Tao.

Lawyers representing Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun have requested the re-examination at the Justice Ministry's Central Institute of Forensic Science.

The forensic evidence in the case involving the murders of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge had been examined by the Office of Police Forensic Science.

The autopsy was carried out at the Police General Hospital before authorities sent the bodies back to the United Kingdom.

The defence team has questioned the reliability of the investigation and evidence used against the two Myanmar migrants.

Myanmar national Win Zaw Htun (L) arrives outside Koh Samui court on the Thai resort island of Koh Samui on July 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Jerome TAYLOR

Zaw Lin, 22, and Win Zaw Htun, 21, have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Witheridge, 23, on Sept 15 last year.

The charges carry the maximum sentence of death.

Somsak Nurod, the chief investigator of Phangan police station, appeared before the court to discuss the defence team's request, although he was not on the witness list Thursday.

The jurisdiction of Phangan police station covers Koh Tao in Phangan district in Surat Thani province.

The officer will reply Friday in a letter about the evidence being kept by police at the station.

But he told the court that some items had already been taken during the forensic checking process.

They included two Marlboro cigarette butts, one L&M butt and a condom. Police also had about 300 cotton buds with DNA samples of the two defendants.

A shovel, sandals and flecks of sand soaked with blood remained at Phangan station, he added.

Outside the court, Pol Lt Col Somsak said.

"The DNA examination of the cigarette butts is complete.

"Of course, the items are kept appropriately," he said. "But the DNA samples taken from the bodies are not my responsibility. They are in Bangkok."

Thursday's story

Myanmar nationals Win Zaw Tun (L) and Zaw Lin look out from a prison transport van as they arrive at court for the start of their trial on the Thai resort island of Koh Samui on July 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Jerome TAYLOR

Koh Tao policeman challenged over killings

Island officer describes finding the bodies

Achara Ashayagachat

Surat Thani: Defence lawyers of two Myanmar suspects accused of murdering two British tourists on Koh Tao challenged a police officer involved in the case over the reliability of his investigation as the trial opened Wednesday.

Pol Lt Jakkrapan Kaewkhao, 26, head of the Koh Tao public service centre, was the first prosecution witness to testify in the murder case of British backpackers David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the resort island in the early hours of Sept 15 last year.

The officer identified Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun to the court as the accused. Later, in cross-examination, he admitted he had not been involved in such a case before.

Pol Lt Jakkrapan said he saw a body later identified as Miller's at the water's edge at Sai Ree beach in front of the King Chulalongkorn statue, so he decided to move him to higher ground.

The British victims: Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24 (file photos)

About five metres away, behind some rocks, lay a female body, later identified as Witheridge.

The woman's skirt was pulled up to her waist, Pol Lt Jakkrapan told the three-member panel of judges. Bloodstains and human flesh was spotted on the rocks.

He believed the areas where he saw flecks of blood on the sand were likely to be where Miller was assaulted.

He found a metal part of a shovel, a wooden stick, and three cigarette butts about 60m north of Witheridge.

A used condom, grey pants with a belt, a pair of canvas shoes, and a pair of pink sandals were piled neatly nearby.

The scenario backed police reports that the two might have had sexual intercourse before they were attacked and the woman might have been raped by one or more people afterwards.

The defence team then launched a cross-examination, questioning how many rape-murder cases the officer had handled.

The officer responded "none", saying he had dealt with two rape cases previously but the victims had not been killed.

Defence lawyers also asked what academic or scientific grounds the officer cited to back his finding Witheridge was raped or whether his conclusion was based purely on his own opinion.

They also asked why officers took many hours to seal off the crime scene.

Chasit Yoohat, 51, a private doctor from Koh Tao Clinic who was called to the scene, and Montriwat Tuwichean, 46, who owns a bungalow and restaurant named In Touch, who called police, also testified Wednesday.

Dozens of observers appeared in the courtroom for the opening of the trial including representatives from the UK's Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), London-based Amnesty International and London-based Solicitors' International Human Rights Group as well as Western and Myanmar individuals.

Defence team adviser Andy Hall said outside the court that documents received from UK authorities were inconsistent with the Thai files.

He said DNA test results did not totally match with those of Thai authorities.

The murder victims' families, who were present in court, issued a statement through the FCO saying they had travelled from the UK to Koh Samui "for the start of the trial into the horrific murders of our beautiful Hannah and David. We stand united in our grief and wish to have privacy to follow the trial."

The Witheridge family said police and the court should be allowed to do their jobs during the coming months.

You can find yesterday's coverage here: http://www.bangkokpost.com/learning/learning-from-news/616884/koh-tao-killings-trial-begins-today

Learn from listening

Click play to listen to audio for this story, or download to save the file
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  • academic: relating to education - เชิงวิชาการ
  • accused: to be said to have done something wrong or committed a crime - ถูกกล่าวหา
  • admitted (verb): agreed that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it - ยอมรับ
  • adviser (noun): a person who gives advice, especially somebody who knows a lot about a particular subject - ที่ปรึกษา
  • Amnesty International (noun): an international human rights organization that works to help people who have been put in prison for their beliefs or race and not because they have committed a crime - องค์การนิรโทษกรรมสากล
  • appear: to go somewhere officially because you are involved in something, such as a trial or inquiry - ปรากฏตัวอย่างเป็นทางการ
  • appropriately (adv): in a suitable way or right for a particular situation or purpose - อย่างเหมาะสม
  • assault (verb): to attack someone violently, either physically or in some other way, e.g., smell - ทำร้ายร่างกาย, ทำร้าย
  • authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • autopsy: a medical examination of a dead person’s body to find out why they died - การชันสูตรศพ
  • back: to support - สนับสนุน
  • backpacker (noun): A person who travels on holiday/vacation carrying equipment and clothes in a backpack (a large bag, often supported on a light metal frame, carried on the back and used especially by people who go climbing or walking) - ผู้ใส่กระเป๋าสะพายหลัง
  • based on (verb): information or facts used to make a story, calculation, judgement or decision - ตั้งอยู่บน,ยึดเป็นหลัก
  • belt: a long narrow piece of leather, cloth, etc. that you wear around the waist - เข็มขัด
  • bloodstain (noun): a mark or spot of blood on something - รอยเลือด,จุดที่เปื้อนเลือด
  • bungalow: a house built all on one level, without stairs - บังกะโล, เรือนไม้ชั้นเดียว
  • butt (noun): the part of a cigarette or cigar that is left after it has been smoked - ส่วนปลายบุหรี่
  • canvas: a strong heavy rough material used for making tents, sails, etc., - ผ้าใบ,เต็นท์
  • challenge (verb): to question whether something/someone is trueful, accurate, or legal - คัดค้าน
  • chief: a person with a high rank or the highest rank in a company or an organisation - หัวหน้า, ผู้นำ
  • cited: mentioned as an example, explanation or proof of something else - อ้าง, กล่าวอ้าง
  • claim (noun): saying that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it - ข้ออ้าง ข้อกล่าวหา
  • Commonwealth (noun): an organization consisting of the United Kingdom and other countries, including most of the countries that used to be part of the British Empire - เครือจักรภพอังกฤษ
  • conclusion: something that you decide is true after consider all the evidence and thinking about it carefully - การสรุป,บทสรุป
  • consistent with: similar to or the same - สอดคล้องกับ, ตรงกับ
  • cotton bud (noun): a small stick with cotton wool at each end, used for cleaning inside the ears, etc. - คอตตอน บัด
  • courtroom (noun): a room in which trials or other legal cases are held - ห้องพิจารณาคดี
  • coverage: the reporting of news and sport in newspapers and on the radio, television or social media - การรายงานข่าว
  • cross-examination (noun): the act of questioning somebody carefully and in a lot of detail about answers that they have already given, especially in court - การถามค้าน
  • crucial (adj): extremely important because it effects the result of something - สำคัญยิ่ง
  • deal with: to take action to solve a problem - รับมือกับ, จัดการกับ
  • defence lawyer: a lawyer whose job is to prove in court that a person did not commit a crime - ทนายจำเลย
  • defendant: someone who has been accused of a crime and is on trial - จำเลย
  • dispute: to say that something such as a fact is not true or correct - โต้แย้ง
  • document: a piece of paper or a set of papers containing official information - เอกสาร
  • dozens (noun): large numbers of; a lot of people or things (1 dozen = 12) - มากมาย, เป็นจำนวนมาก
  • emerge: to appear - ปรากฏออกมา
  • evidence: facts statements or objects that help to prove whether or not someone has committed a crime - หลักฐาน
  • exist: to be real; to be present in a place or situation - มีอยู่
  • female: being a woman or a girl - สตรี, ผู้หญิง, เพศหญิ
  • fleck (noun): a very small piece of something; a very small area of a particular colour - จุด,รอยด่าง,จุดด่าง
  • flesh (noun): the skin of the human body - ผิวเนื้อของคน
  • forensic: relating to the use of scientific methods to solve  crimes or to find out why something happened - เกี่ยวกับนิติวิทยาศาสตร์
  • forensic science: the use of scientific methods to solve  crimes or to find out why something happened - นิติวิทยาศาสตร์
  • grief: a strong feeling of sadness, usually because someone has died - ความเศร้าโศก
  • grounds: reasons for what you say or do - บนมูลเหตุว่า บนพื้นฐานว่า
  • handle: to take action in order to deal with a difficult situation - ดูแล, จัดการ
  • high-profile (adj): creating a lot of public attention - เป็นที่สนใจจากคนในสังคม
  • hoe (noun): a garden tool with a long handle and a blade, used for breaking up soil and removing weeds - จอบ
  • horrific: so shocking that it upsets you - น่าขนลุก
  • human rights: the basic rights which it is generally considered all people should have, such as justice and the freedom to say what you think - สิทธิมนุษยชน
  • identified (verb): named, searched for a discovered - ระบุ
  • inconsistent: if two statements, etc. are inconsistent, or one is inconsistent with the other, they cannot both be true because they give the facts in a different way; tending to change too often; not staying the same - ซึ่งขัดแย้งกัน, ซึ่งไม่สอดคล้องกัน
  • individuals: persons - บุคคล
  • initially: at first - ในเบื้องต้น
  • insist: to keep saying very firmly that something is true - ยืนกราน ยืนยัน
  • institute (noun): an organization that has a particular purpose, especially one that is connected with education or a particular profession; the building used by this organisation - สถาบัน,องค์การ,วิทยาลัย,สถาบันหนึ่งของมหาวิทยาลัย
  • investigation: the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened - การสอบสวน, การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง
  • investigator: someone whose job is to officially find out the facts about something - ผู้สอบสวน, ผู้สำรวจ, ผู้ตรวจสอบ
  • issue: to announce something officially - ออกประกาศ
  • item: a single article or object - รายการ, รายการสิ่งของ
  • judge: someone whose job is to make decisions in a court of law - ตุลาการ, ผู้พิพากษา
  • jurisdiction: the authority that an official organisation has to make legal decisions about somebody/something - เขตอำนาจตามกฎหมาย
  • Justice Ministry (noun): The ministry in charge of the criminal justice system in Thaialnd. As well as running prisons and aiding the Royal Thai Police, the ministry also run the government's drug and narcotic control policies - กระทรวงยุติธรรม
  • key: very important - ที่สำคัญ
  • launch: to start something - เริ่มต้น เริ่มทำ
  • link: to connect - เชื่อม
  • match: to be the same as or very similar to something else - เท่าเทียมกันกับ, เท่ากันกับ
  • maximum: the most possible - ที่สูงสุด ที่มากที่สุด
  • meanwhile: at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน
  • metal: a type of solid mineral substance that is usually hard and shiny and that heat and electricity can travel through, for example tin, iron and gold - โลหะ
  • misinterpret: to understand something incorrectly - เข้าใจผิด
  • murder (verb): to commit the crime of killing someone deliberately - ฆาตกรรม, สังหาร
  • national: a citizen of a particular country - ประชาชน
  • neatly: tidy and in order; carefully done or arranged - เรียบร้อย, เข้าที่เข้าทาง, เป็นระเบียบ
  • observer: a person who watches what happens but has no active part in it; a person who watches and analyses a situation - ผู้สังเกตการณ์,ผู้ออกความเห็น
  • opinion: your feelings or thoughts about somebody/something, rather than a fact - ความเห็น, ความคิดเห็น, ทัศนคติ
  • panel: a group of people who make decisions or judgments - คณะกรรมการ
  • pile: to put objects one on top of another; objects positioned one on top of another - กอง
  • plead not guilty: to formally tell a court of law that you did not commit the crime you are accused of - ไม่รับสารภาพ  ให้การว่าไม่ได้กระทำผิดตามที่ถูกกล่าวหา
  • possession: having or owning something - การครอบครอง
  • present: being in a particular place or situation - เข้าร่วม, อยู่
  • privacy: the freedom to do things without other people watching you or knowing what you are doing - ความเป็นส่วนตัว
  • private: involving groups, businesses or industries that are not owned or controlled by the government - เอกชน
  • proficient: skilled and experienced - เจนจัด, ชำนาญ, เชี่ยวชาญ
  • prosecution: the person or organisation that tries to prove in court that someone has committed a crime - อัยการ
  • purely: only - อย่างเดียว
  • quote: to repeat the words that someone else has said or written - ยกคำพูดมา
  • rape: the crime of forcefully having sex with someone against their wish - การข่มขืน
  • reliability: the condition of being accurate and able to trusted; in statistics, the degree to which the measure is consistent, that is, repeated measurements would give the same result.— - ความน่าเชื่อถือ
  • responsibility: a duty; a duty to deal with or take care of somebody/something, so that you may be blamed if something goes wrong - ความรับผิดชอบ
  • retract: to say that something that you previously said or wrote is not true - ถอนคำพูด
  • sample: a small amount of a substance that is used for scientific or medical tests - ตัวอย่างทดลอง
  • sandal: a light shoe that is partly open on top and does not cover your heel or toes - รองเท้าแตะ
  • scenario (noun): a description of possible actions or events in the future - การสมมติสภาพที่เป็นไปได้
  • scene: site; a place where something happens or happened - สถานที่เกิดเหตุ
  • scheduled: planned to happen at a particular time or day - ตามตารางเวลา
  • seal off (verb): to prevent people from entering or leaving an area or building - ปิด ห้ามไม่ให้เข้า
  • sentence : a punishment given by a court of law - การตัดสินลงโทษ
  • sexual intercourse (noun): the physical activity of sex - การร่วมเพศ
  • shovel: a tool used for lifting and moving something such as snow or soil. It consists of a long handle with a curved metal end - พลั่ว, เสียม, เครื่องตัก
  • sizeable (adj): large in size - มีขนาดใหญ่พอควร
  • soaked: very wet - เปียกโชก
  • solicitor: a lawyer who prepares legal documents, for example for the sale of land or buildings, advises people on legal matters, and can speak for them in some courts of law - ทนาย
  • solid: having no holes or spaces inside; not hollow; hard or firm; not in the form of a liquid or gas - แข็ง, ของแข็ง
  • source: a place where information comes from; someone who gives information - แหล่ง
  • spark: to make something happen - ก่อให้เกิด
  • spotted (verb): seen; saw or noticed - สังเกตเห็น
  • statement: something that you say or write that gives information or an opinion - แถลงการณ์, คำแถลง
  • stem from: to be caused by - เกิดจาก
  • suspects (noun): people who are thought to have committed a crime - ผู้ต้องสงสัย
  • testify: to make a statement about something that you saw, know, or experienced, usually in a court of law or an official investigation - ให้การเป็นพยาน
  • testimony: a formal statement about something that you say, know or experienced, usually given to a court of law - คำให้การ
  • the accused (noun): defendant; someone who has been accused of a crime and is on trial - ผู้ถูกกล่าวหา, จำเลย
  • trial: the process of examining a case in a court of law and deciding whether someone has or has not committed a crime - การพิจารณาคดี
  • united: in agreement and working together - เป็นหนึ่งเดียว, มีเอกภาพ
  • use up (verb): use something so that there is no more of it - ใช้จนหมด
  • vague: not complete, accurate or fully formed - อย่างไม่ชัดเจน
  • victim: someone who has been harmed, injured or killed as the result of a crime - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
  • vital: extremely important; necessary for the success or continued existence of something - จำเป็นสำหรับชีวิต; สำคัญมาก
  • waist: the middle part of the body that is narrower than the parts above and below   - เอว
  • witness: someone who tells a court or investigators what they know about a crime or other legal case. - พยาน

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