Prison Chief Fears Koh Tao Suspects May Commit Suicide

Police press conference about the arrest of the Koh Tao suspects on 7 Oct 2014

SURAT THANI — The two Burmese men who were accused of murdering two British tourists in southern Thailand last month are being monitored to prevent possible suicide attempts, says the director of the prison where they are being held.

"I have instructed other inmates to monitor the two Burmese men. I am afraid they may commit suicide, because they show signs of stress," said Chanin Liangsuwan, chief of Koh Samui District Prison. "They may be feeling guilty for the crime they have done."

The two Burmese men, identified as Saw and Win, were arrested last week and accused of killing David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the island of Koh Tao on 15 September. They have been charged with premeditated murder, among other crimes, and could face execution. 

According to Chanin, the two suspects are being held in a general holding cell with other inmates, but he stressed that wardens are doing their best to keep the suspects under watch. 


Witthaya Suriyawong, director of the Department of Corrections, said he has instructed officials at Koh Samui Prison to be extremely mindful of the two suspects' safety. 

"They are a special case because they are charged with a serious crime, which carries a high penalty," Witthaya said. "Even the food they eat has to be checked thoroughly to prevent any incident. I also want officials to set up CCTVs and guards to monitor their safety when they sleep."

Witthaya said he received reports that Saw and Win are experiencing stress in their detention, which prompted prison officials to bring in psychiatrists to talk with the two suspects. Nevertheless, Witthaya claimed it is a "normal condition for people who are in prison for the first time."

He also said it is not necessary to move the two suspects to a maximum security prison, but suggested that they could be moved to Bang Kwang Prison near Bangkok if the court sentences them to life in jail.

Thai police’s investigation into the murder of Miller and Witheridge has been mired in controversy since day one. After several weeks of blunders, confusion, and numerous false leads, police arrested Saw and Win and accused them of murdering the backpackers.

Although police claim DNA tests and CCTV footage implicate the two men, many Thais remain unconvinced, largely due to inconsistent statements made by police and their long history of "scapegoat" arrests. The scandal took a new turn this week with an allegation from Amnesty International that police tortured Saw and Win during interrogation.   

In a sign that the investigation may face yet another setback, Attorney of Koh Samui, Paiboon Ashawanandakul, said he has asked the police to "polish" the case filed to the prosecutor's office as the files remain "incomplete" in some areas.


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