Year in Prison Has Been 'Torture,' Says Koh Tao Suspect

SURAT THANI — The two Burmese men accused of brutally murdering two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao last year insisted on their innocence in letters written to the public on the first day of their highly anticipated trial.

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 22, have been charged with murder, rape, and nighttime theft over the deaths of British travelers David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on Haat Sai Ri beach in the early morning of 15 September 2014.

According to police, the two suspects raped Witheridge, killed her and Miller, and stole their mobile phones. They face death penalty if convicted. 

After spending nearly a year in prison, their trial began today, with a cross-examination of four witnesses, including a policeman who was among the first to find the bodies, and a doctor who reportedly examined the victims soon after they were found.

Outside the court room, a representative from the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN), one of the NGOs assisting the two Burmese suspects, read letters that were written by the two suspects to reporters.

According to the representative the  letter written by Wai Phyo said the following:

"I thank people around the world for donating their money to help us fight this case. I insist that I did not kill or rape the British tourists, and I am not involved in what happened. So, I very much hope that I will have justice. Putting me in prison even though I did not do anything wrong is torture, and it is restriction of my freedom. Right now I miss my parents in Myanmar a lot. I thank everyone who has been helping my parents." 

Zaw Lin's letter said:

"I am not involved in this case or what has happened. I would like to thank those who support us and care for us. I very much hope that I will have justice. God knows what the truth is. I hope I will be freed soon."

The two suspects initially confessed to the crime shortly after they were arrested and interrogated by police without a lawyer in October 2014.

However, the pair later retracted their confessions and accused police torture. Police have vehemently denied the allegation, and insisted that they have convincing forensic evidence that implicates the two suspects. 

At the trial today, a representative the British Embassy in Thailand distributed statements from Miller and Witheridge’s families.

"Over the coming weeks we hope to gain a better understanding as to how such a wonderful young man lost his life in such idyllic surroundings in such a horrible way," the statement from Miller's family said.

Witheridge's relatives wrote, "Hannah was a beautiful person, inside and out, she brought a room alive just being there. She was fun, honest and loved life. Her bright future was brutally ended, leaving those who loved her broken with no answers. We ask that the media treat Hannah with dignity in their reporting of the trial."

 

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