Thailand murder-accused cash appeal
Two migrant workers accused of killing two British students in Thailand are being held in cramped prison conditions as they seek to raise sufficient funds to ensure a fair trial, campaigners have said.
Burmese workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21-year-old bar workers from Burma, are accused of killing Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in September.
Mr Miller, 24, from Jersey, and Miss Witheridge, 23, from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, were found dead on a beach on the island of Koh Tao.
The men had been due to stand trial next month but this has been delayed until July and they are being held in prison on the island of Koh Samui.
The Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), which represents them, hopes to raise 70,000 US dollars (£46,000) to pay for their defence. This will cover three months of preparations, representation during the 18-day trial and travel costs.
Ko Sein Htay, MWRN president, said: "A fair trial for the defendants in this case is essential to ensure with confidence that those guilty of this crime are held accountable and that there is no punishment of the wrong people.
"It would be a double injustice if lack of a legal defence team to carry out defence work effectively for the defendants meant real killers went free whilst innocent people were jailed or even executed. If the defendants are innocent, no one wants such a situation to arise."
The pair, who are accused of murder and rape, claim they were tortured at an undisclosed location soon after their arrest on October 2. Other members of the migrant community claim they were tortured as part of the investigation.
The suspects were paraded in front of cameras after apparently confessing to the killings,but have since retracted their confessions.
Amnesty International is among groups which have raised concerns about the police investigation.
Andy Hall, international affairs adviser for MWRN, said: "The torture alleged by migrant communities started shortly after the deaths and continued for weeks.
"Torture was mainly alleged as verbal threats that made the accused at fear of their life, but the accused also alleged it involved placing bags over their heads leading to a suffocation situation, kicking in chest and hitting around the head."
He added that two main aspects of the men's defence case are concerns about how forensic and DNA evidence was collected and the contamination of the crime scene, which was not roped off from the public.
Mr Hall said the pair were being kept in "very poor, very overcrowded" prison conditions but receive welfare visits three times a week and are currently "well".
Although the families of Mr Miller and Miss Witheridge have said they are keen to see the "right people" convicted, they said last month they were confident in the work being carried out to solve the crimes.
Metropolitan Police detectives travelled to Thailand to review the case and reported back to the families.
Miss Witheridge's family said: "We would like to stress that as a family we are confident in the work that has been carried out into these atrocious crimes and want to remind both press and public that they do not have the full facts to report and make comment on at this stage."
Mr Miller's family said that while "support for the Myanmar suspects has been strong and vocal", they urged the public not to "jump to conclusions" and said the "suspects have a difficult case to answer".
They added: "The evidence against them appears to be powerful and convincing. They must respond to these charges, and their arguments must be considered with the same scrutiny as those of the prosecution."
More information about the suspects' appeal can be found at www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/justice-koh-tao-murder-case/246839.