BANGKOK — A migrant workers’ rights group has launched an online fundraising effort to ensure a fair trial for the two Burmese men accused of murdering British tourists in southern Thailand last month.
Police arrested Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun for their alleged involvement in the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and the murder of David Miller,24, on the resort island of Koh Tao on 15 September.
Thai police said the two 21-year-old men confessed to the murder, but several days ago the pair recanted their confessions and said police threatened and tortured them during their interrogation.
This week, the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN), which seeks to protect the rights of Burmese workers in Thailand, set up an online fund to cover the pair's legal fees. So far, $1,627 of a $25,000 target has been raised.
“Everyone, including family and friends of the victims, want this case to be closed and the real perpetrators brought to justice,” the fundraising page explains. “A fair trial requires rights of the accused be respected and that the accused have a legal team to defend them of a crime they may not have done.”
Zaw and Win have also received a number of cash donations that have been deposited directly into their prison accounts.
“People are handing cash directly for us to take to prison,” said Andy Hall, a rights activist who has helped coordinate the two suspects’ legal team.
The murder inquiry has been followed closely by Thai and international media, with many critics accusing police of using Zaw and Win as scapegoats after their investigation appeared to reach a dead-end. Police have been under an immense amount of pressure to solve the case, with Thai authorities expressing concern that the incident could damage the Kingdom’s tourism sector.
Thailand’s human rights commission recently vowed to launch an inquiry into mounting allegations that the suspects were tortured in police custody. Doubts about Thailand’s handling of the case also recently prompted the United Kingdom to arrange for its own delegation of police to travel to Thailand and oversee the investigation.
The suspects' families arrived in Thailand on Wednesday and are expected to visit the two men in prison on Koh Samui today.