“The suspects have been kept without legal representation. We still don’t have lawyers observing the process directly,” said Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a human rights activist.
“So we are suspicious about the judicial process in terms of these alleged confessions.”
To which the Police Chief made the rather fatuous comment
Police chief Somyot said the suspects had made no request for lawyers. “They haven’t asked for lawyers. If they had asked for lawyers we would have provided lawyers for them as this is their basic right.”
Were they two men informed they could have access to lawyers? I very much doubt it.
As for the actions of police in general, the article continues -
Migrant workers, particularly from neighbouring Myanmar, have been used as scapegoats for crimes in Thailand before. The rape and murder of 23-year-old Welsh backpacker Kirsty Jones in 2000 was blamed on an ethnic Karen guide from Myanmar who was beaten by police in an attempt to coerce a confession.
Despite a number of arrests, no charges have ever been brought over her death.
https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-thail ... 7H20141003
The family may have been convinced of the two men's guilt, but many residents on Koh Tao were far from convinced. This is a long extract from an article in The Daily Telegraph which is based in the UK and which one would have assumed might err on the side of the family. It has to be long because of the many conflicting factors in this case and many will have forgotten the detail of the many curious circumstances.
. . . on Koh Tao, many residents were just as convinced that the prosecution case was riddled with holes. For them, the killings exposed a dark side to life amid the breath-taking beauty of Koh Tao.
Fifteen months after the murders, however, they still felt too intimidated to speak openly to outsiders for fear of repercussions from the prominent local families that dominate the island.
A Thai working there urged The Telegraph not to be seen taking notes and not to mention any details that could identify him. “You don’t know what this island is like,” he said. “Too many rich people have too many secrets and too much power.”
And a long-term foreign resident there would only agree to meet at an undisclosed location off the island. “It has been a very dark time on the island since September 2014,” he said.
The victims were discovered near a small outcrop of rocks between the bars where they had been drinking earlier with friends and Ocean Front Bungalows where they were both staying – coincidentally, as they did not know each other before a chance meeting a previous day on Koh Tao . . .
On Koh Tao itself, some always doubted the Burmese men’s guilt. That camp instead focused on the reports that Ms Witheridge was harassed in a bar by the son of a prominent local businessman earlier that night, that the unwelcome attention ended in angry confrontation and that a speedboat carrying several unidentified young men left the island for the mainland around the time the bodies were found.
Not that anyone will speak openly about such speculation on an island shrouded in the Thai equivalent of omerta, the mafia code of silence. “Nobody talks about the case because they either want just to move on or because they are too scared,” said the foreign resident.
The killings sent shock waves across Koh Tao, where the economy is virtually entirely dependent on tourism. A few local families had become very rich as the isle was transformed from sleepy fishing backwater into a popular stop on the traveller circuit around South East Asia.
There is also a significant proportion of Westerners who depend on the island’s tourist trade, many of them working in the more than 60 dive centres strung along the coast.
But the ramifications also spread far beyond the 21 square miles of island. A military junta had seized power in Thailand four months earlier, with a pledge to fight corruption and crime and restore order and stability in a country that had been rocked by years of political and street turmoil. So a lot of powerful players had much to gain from finding the guilty and proving that Koh Tao and indeed Thailand were still safe for tourists . . .
There were initial reports about possible Western suspects. Christopher Ware, Mr Miller’s friend and room-mate in Koh Tao, and his brother James were detained and questioned at Bangkok airport, but soon cleared.
Then Sean McAnna, a Scottish man who worked in bars on Koh Tao and knew Mr Miller from their time at Leeds university, fled the island and went into hiding, claiming he had received death threats over the case.
His dramatic departure fuelled feverish speculation about the case amid persistent rumours about the possible involvement of a son of one of the powerful island families.
The Thai police were meanwhile facing growing scrutiny of their handling of the investigation and apparent lack of progress in identifying a suspect. But they ruled out a local angle. “Thais wouldn’t do this,” insisted a senior policeman. . .
As pressure mounted to make arrests, the police narrowed their focus to members of another community on Koh Tao – the Burmese migrant workers who serve drinks, wait tables and clean rooms.
“The investigation just took a 180 turn,” said the long-term resident. “We heard that several young Burmese were rounded up and that they were being treated pretty roughly. They needed scapegoats and it seemed that they found them.” To great fanfare, the police announced on October 2 that they had arrested two suspects who had confessed to the rape and murders. But when the two young men struggled to replicate the crimes they had just admitted committing in a clumsily staged re-enactment on Sairee Beach, there were immediate doubts.
And the accused quickly retracted the confessions, claiming at a first hearing on October 14 that they had been forced to admit to the murders under torture. A Burmese diplomat who visited them said that they were covered in bruising.
The two later spelled out the torture claims in graphic detail in court during the trial. They claimed that plastic bags were placed over their heads during their interrogation, that they were beaten and sexually assaulted and were told that nobody knew where they were and that they would be cut up and dumped at sea if they did not confess; but that they would receive only short sentences if they admitted their crimes.
Those claims were strongly denied by the police. And the Millers made clear that they did not believe them.
But even without the confession, there was compelling DNA evidence against the men. The Thai authorities said that DNA recovered from Miss Witheridge’s body matched samples taken from the suspects.
And amid concern about the state of the investigation, David Cameron [the British Prime Minister] appeared to secure a diplomatic coup when he persuaded Gen Prayuth to allow Metropolitan Police officers to observe the work of their Thai counterparts. But that involvement caused further controversy after the confidential Scotland Yard report reportedly appeared to give approval to the Thai investigation. The British authorities consistently insisted that the Metropolitan officers only ever played an observer role.
And then as far as I am concerned there is the controversy over DNA on the hoe which is damning to the police evidence -
DNA was also at the centre of the most dramatic moment in the trial when the defence’s star witness – Pornthip Rojanasunand, the celebrity head of Thailand’s forensics institute – gave evidence. She said that her laboratory’s independent forensic analysis had found no DNA matches from the two accused on the alleged murder weapon, the hoe. The police had already acknowledged that they made no attempt to obtain DNA from the item, despite its central role in their case.
Col Cherdpong Chiewpreecha, the chief police investigator, also acknowledged that his department had not investigated rumours of a row between Miss Witheridge and the son of a powerful Koh Tao figure on the night of the killings or reports of a mystery speedboat leaving the island . . .
The case has been pored over in Thailand, with the inconsistencies in the prosecution case and the central role of the disputed DNA evidence at the heart of the debate.
The Nation, a prominent English language media outlet expressed the doubts held by many.
"The Samui court can best serve Thailand by showing that justice has been done - and throw the cops botched case out,” it concluded in a hard-hitting editorial.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldn ... trial.html