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Thailand: Investigate torture allegations in British tourist murder probe

Thailand must ensure an independent and thorough investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by the police, and respect the right to a fair trial during the probe into the murder of two British tourists on the island of Koh Tao, Amnesty International said today.

Tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were murdered in the early hours of September 15 on the tourist island of Koh Tao.

Following the arrest of two Burmese nationals for the murders, a lawyer for the Burmese Embassy’s legal team, who met the two suspects, said that one of the men had alleged that the police beat him and threatened him with electrocution.   

The Thai authorities have already made the Burmese suspects take part in a public, televised enactment of the crime, which undermined their right to be presumed innocent.

Numerous sources have also reported further acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of other migrant workers from Burma arrested by police in connection with the investigation. According to reports, police officers poured boiling water over some of the Burmese migrant workers they were questioning. Others were also beaten and threatened.

The mother of one of the individuals allegedly beaten said that the Thai police had instructed those tortured or ill-treated not to speak to the media.

Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme director, said:

“The Thai authorities must initiate an independent, effective and transparent investigation into mounting allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by police.

“The pressure to be seen to be solving an appalling crime that has garnered considerable attention should not result in the violation of rights, including to a fair trial.

“Authorities should provide protection from threats and acts of retaliation to anyone, regardless of their immigration status, reporting or speaking about torture or ill-treatment, and full redress to victims.

“They must also ensure that any alleged confession or information that has been coerced as a result of torture is not admitted as evidence in court, unless to prove that torture has been carried out.

“All suspects should also be guaranteed their rights to a fair trial – which is of particular importance in a crime that could carry a death sentence.”

In May 2014, the UN Committee against Torture expressed serious concern about continuing allegations of widespread torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by Thailand’s military, police and prison officials. The Committee urged the authorities to take immediate and effective measures to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators.


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