09 Dec Surprise date change for start of Koh Tao murder case

Written by Hein Ko Soe Published in Regional Read 2270 times
A photo made available on 15 October 2014 shows two Myanmar migrant workers Win (L) and Saw (L-2), suspects in the killing of two British tourists, are escorted by police officers as they leave   Koh Samui Provincial Court in Surat Thani province, southern Thailand, 14 October 2014. Photo: EPA/SITTHIPONG CHAREONJAI A photo made available on 15 October 2014 shows two Myanmar migrant workers Win (L) and Saw (L-2), suspects in the killing of two British tourists, are escorted by police officers as they leave Koh Samui Provincial Court in Surat Thani province, southern Thailand, 14 October 2014. Photo: EPA/SITTHIPONG CHAREONJAI

The Myanmar embassy’s special team responsible for the two Myanmar suspects in the Koh Tao beach murders has expressed surprise at the Thai court abruptly bringing forward the planned hearing of the case by two months.

Koh Samui Provincial Court decided on December 8 to begin examining the prosecution witnesses on December 26, rather than February 25, said Myanmar lawyer U Aung Myo Thant, a member the Myanmar embassy’s team, speaking on the evening of December 8.

“A strange thing with this case is that the court initially said [on the morning of December 8] that it had set February 25 for the start of the trial, but this evening it brought the trial forward to December 26,” he said.

“The Thai lawyers say that they have never before experienced such a change,” U Aung Myo Thant added.

U Aung Myo Thant and U Kyaw Thaung from the Myanmar embassy team, three Thai lawyers, U Tun Aye, the embassy representative for consular affairs, and a member of the Rakhine National Network attended the court hearing.

The two Myanmar suspects Ko Zaw Lin Oo and Ko Wai Phyo (aka Ko Win Zaw Htun), both 21, were charged with murder, rape, robbery and illegal entry into Thailand in connection with the September 15 murders of British tourists Ms Hannah Witheridge, 23, and Mr David Miller, 24, on the southern Thai island of Koh Tao.

Both men pleaded not guilty.

Although the judge said he wanted to allow the British victims’ families to make suggestions in the case, they were unable to do so as they had no representative in court, according to the Myanmar embassy’s team.

On December 26, the court will examine the prosecution witnesses. But before that day, both the prosecutors and the defendants must submit their evidence.

U Aung Myo Thant said: “In fact, they don’t need to make an order to submit both prosecution evidence and defendants’ evidence simultaneously. The need to submit the defendants’ evidence when the prosecuting side will be examined is strange, too.”

Migrant rights worker Mr Andy Hall, who has been helping with the suspects’ case, told a British newspaper the change of date was “a concerning development.”

There are fears the court is under pressure to push through the case which has attracted significant international scrutiny, according to the Guardian.