Thai Embassy in Yangon issues alert after protest

national December 25, 2015 01:00

By THE NATION

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Myanmar reacts with outrage after two migrants given death sentences over Koh Tao double murder.



THE THAI Embassy in Myanmar has warned Thai nationals to take extra care while travelling in that country after some 30 people protested outside the mission following a court decision to give death sentences to two Myanmar migrants in the Koh Tao double-murder case of two Britons.
In a newsletter issued yesterday, the embassy said Myanmar’s social-media users planned another protest outside the Thai Embassy today.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said the protest yesterday dispersed peacefully in about an hour. He said Myanmar authorities had sent some 20 policemen to guard the Thai Embassy in Yangon.
“There have been no reports of any Thais in Myanmar being affected,” he said yesterday.
The embassy’s newsletter said, “[Myanmar] social media users are mobilising supporters for a protest in front of the embassy [today]. For your safety, we urge all to be extremely vigilant and to avoid identifying yourselves as Thai nationals if not necessary.”
The Samui Provincial Court yesterday sentenced two Myanmar migrants to death for the brutal murders of two British tourists on Koh Tao in 2014. The defendants, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun, showed no emotion after the verdict was read out. But inside the same courtroom, their mothers broke into tears.
The crimes committed by the two defendants made headlines across the world. On the otherwise idyllic island of Koh Tao in Surat Thani province, the battered bodies of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were found in September last year. 
The court found Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun guilty of many crimes, including murder, sexual violation of the female victim, and theft. 
There was outrage among Myanmar social media users following yesterday’s court ruling. “The Burmese are scapegoats as usual,” a Facebook user said.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar government was considering seeking royal pardon for the two convicts, a senior Myanmar official said yesterday. If needed, the Myanmar government would appeal to the Thai Privy Council to commute the sentence, the President’s Office director Zaw Htay wrote in his Facebook message, according to the Irrawaddy website. “The government will continue to help through diplomatic channels without damaging Thailand’s sovereignty, its independent court ruling and bilateral relations between Burma and Thailand,” he said.
The Thai charge d’affaires in Myanmar, Chainarong Keratiyut-wong, said the situation in Yangon was still normal without violence.
“Thai people can travel to Yangon normally, as there was no sign of aggression against Thai people. We have to wait until tomorrow to see if there is any movement, but I think there will be no violence here,” he said.
The ruling, the court said, is based on solid evidence against the two Myanmar migrants. Among these crucial pieces of evidence are DNA test results. The court ruled as groundless the defendants’ claims that they were tortured into confessing to the crimes during the interrogation process. 
Defence lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat said he respected the court ruling but added that the defendants would file an appeal within a month. “As there were many disagreements on the validity of the evidence, we should be able to use this point to ask the Court of Appeals to look further,” he said. However, he refused to disclose further details. Nakhon insisted that the case was not over yet. 
His team members, officials from Myanmar embassies, and officials from human-rights bodies were seen trying to comfort the two convicts’ mothers. “The verdict handed down to two Myanmar migrants in the Koh Tao murder case is too strong,” commented Kyaw Thaung from the Myanmar Embassy special team. He noted that there was no witness in the case. 
Andy Hall, a British activist who helped the defendants’ defence, said Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun said they respected the court decision but were sure that on appeal, they would be freed and truth would prevail.

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