Myanmar Rights Group Urges Thailand to Protect Condemned Workers

myanmar-convicts-dec282015.jpg Zaw Lin (left) and Win Zaw Htun are taken from court after hearing their sentences, Koh Samui, Thailand, Dec. 24, 2015.

Myanmar human rights officials appealed on Monday to their counterparts in Thailand to ensure that two migrant workers from Myanmar sentenced to death last week for the 2014 murder of a British couple at a Thai resort are protected by the law while they appeal their verdict.

Hundreds meanwhile staged protests over the weekend and on Monday calling for the pair to be freed, saying the men are scapegoats in a botched Thai police investigation of the crime.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun, both aged 22, were sentenced to death by a Thai court on Dec. 24 after being found guilty of the murder of David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on the resort island of Koh Tao in September 2014.

Though the two men at first admitted to the crime, they later recanted, saying they had made their confession under duress.

“We have sent a letter to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, asking them to make sure [the sentenced men] are not tortured in jail,” Nyan Zaw, chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“We told them that we had heard and read in the news that they were tortured, though there were no eyewitnesses and no medical evidence was presented,” Nyan Zaw said he told his counterparts in the independent but government-mandated Thai rights group.

“Many have been protesting against their death sentence in many cities, and we ask the Thai government for justice and to ensure that these two Burmese workers’ human rights are fully protected by the law while they are in jail,” he said.

Not guilty

The convicted men’s mothers spoke to their sons via computer link-up on Monday after the pair were transferred from Koh Samui prison, where they had been held since their arrest 14 months ago, to a high-security facility in the southern Thai province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

“They were able to smile, though both of us were crying,” Daw Khin Thein, the mother of Win Zaw Thun told RFA.

“My son encouraged me not to worry and asked me to tell our relatives in our village that they hadn’t killed those people,” she said.

“I told them that everyone in our village was crying because they had been sentenced to death,” she said.

Protests continue

Protests meanwhile continued for a second day at the Three Pagodas Pass linking Myanmar with Thailand following protests over the weekend in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon and in towns around Thailand, sources said.

More than 100 demonstrated at the Three Pagodas checkpoint on Monday after sending a letter to the deputy minister of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province asking him to review the two men’s case, Ko Tuu, a local resident, said.

“We protested to demonstrate our complaint against Thailand’s judicial system for their treatment [of the condemned men],” he said.

Also on Monday, police in Malaysia arrested two Myanmar nationals after they led a protest of about 500 Myanmar residents in front of the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

“Police arrived while we were protesting and told us they hadn’t given us permission to protest,” Ko Kyaw Thein Naing, a member of a support group for migrant workers in Malaysia, said.

“While we discussed this, more people joined in the protest, with some shouting that the two [convicted] workers should be freed, and police then arrested two leaders of the protest,” he said.

“They said foreigners can’t protest in Malaysia,” he said.

Reported by Kyaw Thu, Tin Aung Khine, Kyaw Lwin Oo, and Zarni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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