Myanmar migrants charged in British tourist deaths

AP News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2014 4:00 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Two Myanmar migrant workers were indicted Thursday for the killings of two British tourists on a resort island in a case that has raised concerns about tourist safety and Thai police conduct.

The attorney general's office presented the case to the court on the nearby island of Samui, and court officials said the two indicted men will attend a session on Monday to acknowledge the charges against them.

The bodies of David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, were found Sept. 15 on a beach on Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand known for world-class scuba diving. Autopsies showed both had suffered severe head wounds and Witheridge had been raped.

A statement from the attorney general's office said the two suspects — Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 21 — were indicted on charges covering conspiracy to commit murder, rape, criminal cover-up, illegally entering Thailand and staying in the country without permission. Zaw Lin was also indicted for theft. The statement did not say what was stolen, but police during the investigation said Witheridge's mobile home had been recovered from one of the men.

Under intense pressure to solve the case, which drew global attention, police carried out DNA tests on more than 200 people on the island. They said in October that the DNA evidence matched that of the two suspects. Police and prosecutors have said other evidence included close-circuit television footage linking the two to the crime.

The two said that their initial confessions were extracted by beatings and threats, which police deny.

Britain's Foreign Office has expressed concern to Thai authorities about the way the investigation was conducted.

The gruesome killings tarnished the image of Thailand's tourism industry, which has been struggling to recover since the army staged a coup and imposed martial law in May.

Police faced a variety of criticism, starting with their failure to secure the crime scene and releasing several names and pictures of suspects who turned out to be innocent.