Giles Ji Ungpakorn
According to the daily newspaper Khao Sod, the Appeals Court recently announced its decision to uphold the death sentences for two migrant Burmese workers convicted of a brutal rape and double homicide on island of Ko Tao. [See http://bit.ly/2mKOdFo ]
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, migrant workers on the island, were convicted of the September 2014 murders of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge largely on the basis of DNA traces police claimed were recovered from the crime scene and Ms Witheridge’s body. No other physical evidence or witness testimony directly linked them to the crime. The crime scene was allowed to be hopelessly contaminated by the incompetent Thai police. The police are also suspected of being involved with the circulation of inappropriate naked photos of Ms Witheridge’s corpse on social media.
The defence was never allowed to independently test the DNA evidence on its own, and many have cast doubt on the integrity of the police investigation and the Thai justice system. The trial came after an investigation widely criticized for unprofessional bungling, and accusations that desperate investigators arrested two men on the margins of society for use as scapegoats. Burmese migrants are continually being scape-goated in Thailand.
The two were being held at the Bang Kwang Central Prison in Bangkok and were not allowed in court. No witnesses were called during the appeals process and defence lawyers were not informed. The Appeals Court simply endorsed evidence and testimony already entered into the record during the initial trial.
There has long been a lack of justice in the Thai court system with the rich and powerful always escaping punishment while ordinary working people are assumed guilty before trial and treated with contempt. Migrant workers receive even worse treatment. All this is due to a number of factors; a lack of democracy, a judicial system under the control of the corrupt elites, the weakness of trade unions and socialist parties who could act as tribunes of the oppressed, and the elite-driven racism which permeates society.
Of course the presence of a ruling military junta only makes matters worse. Generalissimo Prayut initially remarked about the Ko Tao murders that women should not wear bikinis on the beach. He and his ilk always like to create an image of “brutal efficiency” in dealing with problems. Thus the need to quickly find scape goats to “clear up” cases. Prayut has also gone on the rampage, using his “because I say so” article 44 to order the occupation of Dammakeye temple and hundreds of sackings and appointments of state officials. [See http://bit.ly/1RM69fv ]
Since the 2014 military coup, many opponents of the military have been hauled in for “attitude changing sessions”, often in secret locations. Many have faced military courts. Recently the head of the military courts, General Tanin Tuntusawat, explained that the courts cared not a jot about human rights and merely followed the diktats of the junta.
If the junta gets what it wants, no change is on the horizon. Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krua-ngarm warned people that even when Generalissimo Prayut was no longer Prime Minister, nothing would change. This is because he would be head of the National Strategic Committee and the military constitution states clearly that for 20 years after the first elections, governments will have to conform to the military’s National Strategic Plan.
Further reading: http://bit.ly/1WjMcfF