Koh Tao Suspects' Alleged Recantation 'Normal,' Police Officer Says

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

SURAT THANI – A senior police officer has downplayed a news report that claims the two Burmese migrants accused of murdering two British tourists recanted their "confessions" this week.

"The suspects have every rights under the law to retract their testimony," said Pol.Col. Prachum Ruengthong, chief of Koh Pha Ngan Police Station, whose jurisdiction covers Koh Tao island where the murders took place.

"In many other cases, suspects also recant their confessions during trial. It's normal," Pol.Col. Prachum said.

His comment came a few days after a report from the Myanmar-based 7 Daily newspaper claimed the two Burmese suspects, named Saw and Win, retracted their "confession" to murdering the two Britons, David Miller and Hannah Witheridge, on the popular island of Koh Tao on 15 September. 

According to the report, a lawyer from the Burmese embassy said the two suspects told him they did not commit the murder, contrary to Thai police's claim that the men confessed shortly after they were arrested.

However, several other news reports quoted the lawyer as saying the two men did confess to the murder, although the details of their testimony remained murky leading him to believe the case may have been a "set-up."

Earlier this week, a number of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, also demanded an investigation into the claim that the two suspects were tortured under police custody.

Yet Pol.Col. Prachum insisted that the suspects did not suffer any physical abuse at the hands of the police. 

"I insist that it is not true. The police have never coerced the suspects, physically or mentally, into confessing," he said.

The officer added, "Saw and Win confessed on their own, because they are guilty of what they have done. There's no more beating of suspects in this era. The entire police operation is under the eyes of the media."

Saw and Win are currently detained at Koh Samui Prison. They have been charged with premeditated murder, sexual assault, and nighttime theft. If found guilty, the pair could face the death penalty. 

 

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