Two Myanmar Men Convicted of Koh Tao Murders and Rape; Death Sentence For Both

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo at a police news conference on Tao island, Oct. 3 2014

SAMUI — The court today found two Myanmar workers guilty of killing two British backpackers in southern Thailand more than a year ago.

The court on Samui island this morning ruled that there is sufficient evidence to implicate the two defendants, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, in the double murder of British nationals David Miller and Hannah Witheridge in September 2014.

Koh Tao Murders: Court Says DNA Trumps Other Flaws in Case

Although there were no direct witnesses, the defendants' DNA traces that were found at the crime scene and on Witheridge's body was enough to prove their guilt, according to the court. 

The court said the DNA test performed by police was accurate and up to international standard. Forgery of DNA test during the process was highly unlikely, the court added.

The case has since attracted intense media coverage and public scrutiny, largely because of Thailand's long history of mistrials and convicted individuals who later turned out to be police's "scapegoats." 

Miller, 24, and Witheridge, 23, were found dead on Sai Ree Beach on Koh Tao in the early morning of Sep. 15, 2014. Two weeks after the murders, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were arrested and identified as the killers. The pair were also accused of raping Witheridge. 

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo have been held at a prison on Samui island since their arrests. They have both been sentenced to death for the double murder and also for the rape of Witheridge. Additionally Wai Phyo was convicted of entering the kingdom illegally and the theft of Miller's phone. 

The phone was eventually found smashed in Wai Phyo's residence, the verdict said. For the alleged destruction of the phone, the court ordered Wai Phyo to pay 15,000 baht in compensation to the Miller family. 

The two migrant workers, who are both 22, initially confessed to the crimes after going through police interrogation without any lawyers or a qualified interpreter. The two men later retracted their confession once they received pro-bono legal assistance from the Lawyers Council of Thailand. 

The defendants’ lawyers have been urging the court to dismiss the charges against the two men, arguing that forensic evidence fails to link the the defendants to the crime scene. But their argument today proved insufficient to sway the court.


Migrant rights activist Andy Hall, who worked with the defense lawyers, said they plan to appeal the guilty verdict. Appeals for criminal conviction must be filed within 30 days.  

If the Court of Appeals declined to accept the appeal, top defense lawyer Nakhon Chompuchart said he will do so at the Supreme Court instead.

"We will fight this case to the very end," Nakhon said. 

The family of Miller were in attendance at the court today. Also present were mothers of the two defendants. Witheridge's family did not attend the ruling.  


The family of David Miller reading a statement outside Samui court after the trial verdict on Dec. 24. 

After the verdict had been read out, Michael Miller, older brother of David Miller, read out a statement to the press. In the statement, made on behalf of his family, Miller said that the family believed that the verdict was "correct". He went on to say that the family had kept an open-mind throughout the trial and listened to the evidence. 

Miller said that the trial is not a "shambles" as some people had claimed on social media. The family also added that they believed that the two defendants had shown no remorse for their actions throughout the trial. The Miller family declined to answer any questions from the media outside the court.

Asked to comment on the Miller family statement, Nakhon, the defense lawyer, said that his two clients restrained themselves from showing any emotion in the court room, following his advice to "be strong for their moms." 

"They don't show or feel remorse because they believe they are innocent," he added. 

Family members of the two Myanmar men found guilty of the double murder were too anguished to speak to the press today. The mothers of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo could be seen weeping outside the court.


The mothers of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo react to the verdict. 

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo are expected to be moved to either Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat provincial prisons. It is likely to be betweeen six months and one year before knowing whether their appeal will be accepted or not. 


Related news:

Koh Tao Murders: Defense Asks Court to Drop Charges

Koh Tao Murders: DNA on Weapon ‘Does Not Match’ the Accused

Lack of Evidence, Local Media Coverage Adds to Mystery of Koh Tao Murder

Koh Tao Trial Resumes, Court Shown Footage of Victims’ Final Night

Koh Tao Murder: Top Forensic Scientist to Testify for Defense

Koh Tao Murders: Newspaper Apologizes for Implicating Official’s Son


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