Cops reject call for Koh Tao case review
Myanmar army's chief joins verdict's critics
published : 28 Dec 2015 at 04:30
newspaper section: News
writer: Post Reporters
Police have brushed aside calls for a review of the Koh Tao murder case and insist certain groups have tried to exploit the issue to rally protests against the death sentences handed down on Thursday to two Myanmar migrant workers convicted in the case.
Speaking at the Royal Thai Police Office, a team of police spokesmen and officers involved in the investigation said the probe, including the scientific examination of DNA profiles which underpinned the court ruling, were transparent and met international standards.
Deputy police spokesman Piyaphan Pingmuang yesterday ruled out the possibility of reinvestigating the case.
Earlier, Myanmar's envoy to Thailand called on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to review the case file.
Ambassador Win Maung on Saturday issued a statement clarifying he did not accept the court ruling, in which two Myanmar nationals were sentenced to death for last year's murder of British backpackers, but instead "respected" it.
In Yangon, Myanmar's army chief called on Thailand to review the sentencing after the controversial trial, which sparked protests.
Gen Min Aung Hlaing, head of the country's influential military, has asked Thailand for a "review of the evidence" against the men, the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported yesterday.
Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 22, were found guilty by the Koh Samui Provincial Court on Thursday of killing David Miller, 24, and raping and murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, on a beach on Koh Tao in Surat Thani province in September last year.
Pol Maj Gen Piyaphan said police invest-igated the case based on the DNA evidence linking the defendants to the crime.
''The DNA evidence cannot lie,'' he said.
Without elaborating, Pol Maj Gen Piyaphan said some groups had tried to exploit the case to instigate protests, and warned against any attempts to politicise the issue.
He urged Myanmar people not to be misguided into falling victim to these groups.
While declining to comment further on the Koh Tao murder case, the Myanmar embassy yesterday pledged to maintain good relations with Thailand despite the protests.
Pol Maj Gen Piyaphan said there were criminal prosecutions in 126 murder cases involving Myanmar people in Thailand in the past year, but there were no protests against those.
He said the recent protests against in the Koh Tao murder case were suspicious.
He said the local court paid no attention to the initial guilty confessions by the accused but rather focused on the evidence.
The Foreign Ministry said on its website yesterday that Myanmar's Foreign Ministry had denied reports that people protesting against the Koh Tao ruling had been "instigated" into taking to the streets.
The Myanmar ministry said there was no evidence to support such a claim.
Pol Col Prachum Ruangthong, chief of Koh Phangan police who supervised Koh Tao, said investigators handling the case followed proper procedures as they knew their work would be subject to scrutiny.
The lawyers representing the defendants and an interpreter were present at every step of the investigation.
He also denied the defendants' claims that police officers tortured them to extract confessions.
Pol Col Prachum said doctors were brought in to perform health checks on the defendants, and police took photos of every step of the procedure as evidence.
Suebpong Siripongkul, spokesman for the Courts of Justice, said the case is not final as the defendants can lodge an appeal with the Appeal Court within 30 days.
The Lawyers Council of Thailand, which fought the case on behalf of the two workers at the request of the Myanmar embassy, called on the Myanmar people to have confidence in the Thai justice system.
Myanmar people protesting over the sentence should stay calm as the judicial process was not finished.
When the case reaches the Appeals Court, or even the Supreme Court, all factual evidence would be considered justly.
Dissatisfied with the court's ruling, Myanmar people in Yangon and in major towns along the border with Thailand have staged protests, demanding a review of the case.
The consular section of the Thai embassy in Yangon said the section will be closed from today until Wednesday due to the demonstrations around the embassy.
However, the embassy will continue to provide visa services in emergency cases, particularly in cases involving medical treatment.
Myanmar authorities yesterday closed the Phaya Tong Su border checkpoint opposite the Three Pagodas pass in Thailand's Kanchanaburi province, a regional army commander said.
Maj Gen Thammanoon Withee, commander of the 9th Infantry Division supervising Kanchanaburi and nearby provinces, said Myanmar authorities did not allow foreigners to cross the border to the Phaya Tong Su side, while Thai authorities opened their Three Pagodas pass as usual.
He said he had received reports that Myanmar people in Phaya Tong Su planned to stage three days of protests over the sentences.