Migrants accused of Ranong murder 'tortured' by police
RANONG - Four Myanmar migrant workers arrested over the murder of a 17-year-old female student in September claim they were tortured into confessing by Ranong police.
Moe Zin Aung, 19, Zaw Lay, 25, Mang Sane, 20, and Kyaw Soe Win, 18, confessed to taking part in the brutal stabbing of Orawee Sampaotong on the night of Sept 28, according to official statements they gave to police officers.
In an interview with the Bangkok Post Sunday at Ranong Prison, the suspects now say they did not kill Orawee.
"The police accused us of murdering the girl, and when we denied the claims, we were strangled and punched in the neck," said Kyaw Soe Win on behalf of the other suspects.
According to interviews with the suspects' relatives and lawyers, the four were tortured on the days they were arrested between Oct 20-24. The alleged abuse included being blindfolded, threatened with a gun, suffocated with a plastic bag and kicked in the genitals.
Kyaw Soe Win said the confessions they signed -- which include a timeline of the events on the day of the murder -- were dictated to them by the police. He said they were forced to accept the statements and sign their names due to fear.
Lawyers are in the process of retrieving footage from two security cameras which they believe shows the suspects elsewhere at the time of the murder. A medical examination indicated that three of the four suspects were physically harmed while in police custody.
According to Thai law, any evidence obtained by torture must be ruled inadmissible.
"I believe that we have the necessary evidence that shows these four people are innocent," said Kunanya Songsamuth, a lawyer involved in the case.
Ms Kunanya said the torture allegations could be used as part of the suspects' defence if they go to trial. She also said that as there was only a short time between the men being taken into custody and them making the torture claims, it was more likely a court would consider their claims plausible.
The men's legal team has also disputed the age of the two younger suspects, saying Moe Zin Aung is actually 15 and Kyaw Soe Win is 14, according to Myanmar household registration records. They said the pair misrepresented their ages so they could work in the fishing industry. If they are both aged under 18 they should be treated as juvenile offenders, the lawyers said.
One of the investigating officers, Pol Lt Col Wuttipon Dintong, refused to discuss details of the case, but denied the suspects were tortured.
Lawyers familiar with cases involving migrant workers say the case bears a resemblance to the Koh Tao murders of two UK backpackers last year. Two Myanmar workers convicted of the murders were widely regarded as scapegoats.
Police say the pair confessed to the killings and that DNA samples linked them to the crimes. Both men retracted their confessions, saying they had been coerced by the police. On Thursday, the pair were found guilty and sentenced to death by a Koh Samui court.
Pol Col Cherdpong Chiewpreecha, a senior investigator who was involved with and testified in the Koh Tao case, is also heading the Ranong investigation.