Amnesty International is urging the Thai junta to conduct an independent investigation into allegations that two Burmese workers who “confessed” to the murders of two British backpackers did so under duress and torture.
In addition, the Myanmar [Burmese] Migrant Labour Association is also calling for a review of the investigation, after a further three Burmese nationals were alleged to have been beaten and doused with boiling water while being questioned, according to the Bangkok Post.
Britons Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found slumped next to beach rocks after being brutally murdered on the Thai island of Koh Tao on 15 September.
The backpackers suffered severe head injuries, while Hannah is also understood to have been raped by the perpetrators and an autopsy found that David had drowned in the surf.
Two Burmese workers, only known as Saw Rim and Win, both 21, have been charged with the murder of the tourists and, if convicted, face the death penalty.
In pictures: Thailand beach murders
In pictures: Thailand beach murders
1/11 Thailand beach murders
Two Myanmar migrant workers suspected of killing two British tourists participate in a crime re-enactment
2/11 Thailand beach murders
The two suspects (wearing hard hats) during a re-enactment of the alleged crime
3/11 Thailand beach murders
Thai policemen conduct DNA tests on staff from two beachside bars as part of the investigation on the murder of two British tourists on the southern resort island of Koh Tao
4/11 Thailand beach murders
Police chiefs look at a beach near the spot where bodies of two killed British tourists were found on the island of Koh Tao
5/11 Thailand beach murders
Police in Koh Tao said they were liaising with officers in Bangkok to try and detain the second man
6/11 Thailand beach murders
People of Koh Tao offer their prayers
7/11 Thailand beach murders
A Thai villager lays flowers during a memorial service for two murdered British tourists at the crime scene on a beach of Koh Tao resort island
8/11 Thailand beach murders
A police searches for clues near the spot where bodies of two killed British tourists were found, on the island of Koh Tao
9/11 Thailand beach murders
Thai workers carry the bodies of two British tourists on Koh Tao island in the Surat Thani province of southern Thailand
10/11 Thailand beach murders
Hannah Witheridge, 23 was killed on the small island of Koh Tao on 15 Septembe
11/11 Thailand beach murders
David Miller, 24, was killed on the small island of Koh Tao on 15 September
They were paraded in front of cameras to reconstruct how they allegedly carried out the crimes, while the Thai police chief said a positive DNA match had been made between the migrants and that of the British travellers.
Amnesty says that one of the men had told their lawyer that the police had beaten him and threatened him with electrocution.
Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme Director, said: “The Thai authorities must initiate an independent, effective and transparent investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by police.
“The pressure to be seen to be solving an appalling crime that has garnered considerable attention should not result in the violation of rights, including to a fair trial.”
Thai military rulers had been keen to wrap up the case as soon as possible, after the incident negatively affected its tourism industry – 800,000 Britons travel to the sun-soaked country each year.
A spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office told The Independent: “We are concerned about the reports of allegations of mistreatment and expect these to be dealt with appropriately.
“The investigation and judicial process remains a matter for the Thai authorities, but we expect it to be conducted in a fair and transparent way.
“We remain in contact with them and have asked that they provide updates to the British Embassy in Bangkok and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.”
A lawyer commissioned by the Burmese embassy in Thailand to look into the case reportedly stated that it is “set-up and not based on hard facts”.
According to Reuters, a Norwegian-based news organisation called Democratic Voice of Burma quoted lawyer Aung Myo Thant as saying: “From what we have learned, there are inconsistencies with both the forensic report and evidence provided in the case.”
The third migrant, who hasn’t yet been charged, is still in police custody.
Thailand’s police chief General Somyot Poompanmuang refuted the claims in a press conference today: “I insist that all officials in this case have done a good job. A perfect job.”
Police Major General Suwat Chaengyodsuk added: “I confirm that there was no abuse of any of the suspects.”
Amnesty, however, says that one of the mothers of the alleged beaten migrants has said that those mistreated were told by police not to speak to the media.
“They must also ensure that any alleged confession or information that has been coerced as a result of torture is not admitted as evidence in court, unless to prove that torture has been carried out,” Amnesty’s Mr Bennett said.
Adding: “All suspects should also be guaranteed their rights to a fair trial – which is of particular importance in a crime that could carry a death sentence.”Reuse content