Myanmar calls Thai king to pardon migrant ‘killers’

Myanmar says it will continue to support the process of seeking a royal pardon for two migrant workers whose death sentences were upheld by Thailand’s Supreme Court last week. 

Burmese citizens Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were sentenced to death for the murders of two British tourists, Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao in 2014. 

The convictions were based on flawed evidence, according to numerous observers. 

Thein Swe, Myanmar’s minister of labour and immigration, said he would continue co-operating with the Thai authorities to secure a pardon. 

He said: “A royal pardon from the king is the only option left, and civil society groups in Thailand are also working on it. The government will continue supporting in any way it can. The ministry is also helping the labour attache and the ambassador in Thailand.” 

The minister added that MPs had sent letters to the Thai authorities. 

Thailand-based labour rights groups have urged the Thai government to take the initiative in seeking a royal pardon.

Both prisoners have consistently denied the charges and claim the Thai police coerced them into making confessions.

Andy Hall, a migrant rights specialist who has worked on the case, said: “After having seen so much of the evidence presented in court … I consider that the death penalty sentence and conviction … should instead have been reversed and quashed by the Supreme Court.”

He added that the conviction failed to comply with “accepted criminal burden of proof requirements needed to be satisfied to impose such a conviction, particularly as concerns international DNA and forensics standards”. 

Hall said the DNA and forensic evidence was “fundamentally flawed” and “unreliable”.

The case has highlighted wider issues surrounding migrant workers in Thailand. 

Millions of workers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos work in Thailand’s low-skilled sectors, where they are vulnerable to exploitation and often face modern slavery.

Thailand last year launched an overhaul of the registration process for migrants, granting them the same labour rights as Thais, including access to free health care, pension contributions and child allowances.

The military-run government aims to ensure 2 million legitimate migrant workers are re-registered. Workers earning as little as Bt10,000 (US$326) per month are expected to pay for the process.  

The visas, work permits and health checks required for the new agreement cost about Bt6,700.


A large proportion of Thailand’s manual labourers are migrants. Picture credit: Asean Economist