Mothers of Myanmar men sentenced to die for Koh Tao murders beg for clemency

Zaw Lin, at center, and Win Zaw Tun, at right, leave the court on Aug. 29, 2019, in Nonthaburi province after the verdict regarding their conviction for murdering two British backpackers on the holiday island of Koh Tao. Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP
Zaw Lin, at center, and Win Zaw Tun, at right, leave the court on Aug. 29, 2019, in Nonthaburi province after the verdict regarding their conviction for murdering two British backpackers on the holiday island of Koh Tao. Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

The mothers of two Myanmar men sentenced to death for the murder of a pair of British backpackers in Thailand submitted a plea for clemency from His Majesty the King on Thursday, in a case tainted by claims of irregularities.

Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun were sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and the killing of David Miller, 24.

Their battered bodies were found on a beach in the diving resort island of Koh Tao in September 2014.

Defense lawyers have said the evidence used to convict the two men were unreliable as authorities had mishandled DNA and did not allow independent analysis of the samples.

They also say confessions by the pair were obtained under duress.

Defense appeals were exhausted in August and a royal pardon or commutation of the death sentence by the king is their last chance of a reprieve.

“We are not challenging the judgement. We are saying that… by giving them the death penalty, they will lose the opportunity to do something good with their lives,” lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman said.

She joined the mothers of the two men, and Myanmar embassy officials, to submit the request at the sprawling Bangkok prison where they are being held.

“They deserve a second chance,” she added.

In the request Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun have pleaded for “compassion from the king,” Andy Hall, advisor to the legal defense team, added.

The original verdicts on the 2014 double killing divided relatives of the victims.

Miller’s parents backed the court’s decision, but the family of Witheridge were more cautious, with her sister saying she believed the investigation had been “bungled”.

The case has triggered a strong reaction from Myanmar, where many felt the two men had been given an unfair trial as low-paid migrant workers — an integral part of Thailand’s workforce — are often regarded with contempt by its public.

The police were accused of buckling under pressure to solve a crime that attracted global attention.

Zaw Lin’s brother who was working alongside him in Thailand at the time of the murder said earlier this month that the two were simply used as “scapegoats” to save Thailand’s image.

“Hearing the judge give him (Zaw Lin) the death sentence was horrific,” Maung Zaw Win told AFP at their family home in western Rakhine State — one of Myanmar’s most impoverished.

“I ask the Thai King to show kindness to them, to show them humanity,” he added.

It is unclear when the sentence will be carried out, with hundreds remaining on death row.

But last year Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, prompting criticism by rights groups who had hoped the country was moving towards abolishing the practice.

Related:

Myanmar pair await final appeal ruling over Brit killings in Thailand
Final Judgment: Thai Supreme Court upholds death sentence for Myanmar men over Brit killings
Anonymous slams ‘ugly corruption” of Thai authorities over Koh Tao case
Koh Tao murder victims’ final night retold via CCTV at trial
Koh Tao murders: Influential island figure vows to clear his son’s name
Universal doubts cloud ‘perfect’ Koh Tao murder investigation
Police claim Myanmar worker confesses to Koh Tao murders
Police blame ‘jealous’ friend for David and Hannah murders on Koh Tao

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