Death sentences in Koh Tao killings commuted

Death sentences in Koh Tao killings commuted

Myanmar migrants convicted in 2014 slayings among many benefiting from royal pardons

Migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun leave the Koh Samui provincial court in Koh Samui after being found guilty of murder on Dec 24, 2015. (Reuters File Photo)
Migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun leave the Koh Samui provincial court in Koh Samui after being found guilty of murder on Dec 24, 2015. (Reuters File Photo)

Two migrant workers from Myanmar on death row for the 2014 murder of two British backpackers on Koh Tao have had their sentences commuted to life in prison under a royal decree, their lawyer said on Friday.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were sentenced to death for the murder of David Miller and the murder and rape of Hannah Witheridge, whose bodies were discovered on a beach on the popular tourist island in Surat Thani in September 2014.

The two men were convicted and sentenced in 2015 and the ruling was upheld by an appeal court in 2017 and the Supreme Court in August 2019.

The convictions were mired in controversy, with supporters of the two men arguing that they had been framed and that they had initially confessed to the crimes under duress. The police investigation and handling of crucial DNA evidence were also widely criticised.

Their sentences will be reduced to life imprisonment under a royal pardon, their lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat told Reuters.

"The two are eligible under a section in the royal pardon decree to get their death sentences reduced to life imprisonment," Nakhon said.

"They will also have a chance to get their sentences reduced further on good behaviour."

The decree published in the Royal Gazette on Friday said the pardons were granted to commemorate His Majesty the King’s birthday on July 28.

It was not immediately clear how many other prisoners were eligible for pardons or reduction of sentences under different criteria listed in the decree.


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