Protests over Thailand’s conviction of migrant workers grow in Myanmar

The picturesque island of Koh Tao was shaken by the brutal murders. Photo: Flickr.

Angry protests are growing in Yangon following the conviction of two Myanmar migrant workers for the brutal murder of two British backpackers in Thailand.

Many believe they are innocent but have been made scapegoats by corrupt Thai police working with powerful mafia families.

Hundreds of people, including Buddhist monks, have been protesting outside the Thai embassy in Yangon since Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin were convicted and sentenced to death on December 24.

The pair, both 22, said they had been tortured into confessing to the murdering David Miller and raping and murdering Hannah Witheridge on the resort island of Koh Tao last year.

There have also been protests in some Thai towns, and in Myanmar border towns, and the embassy’s consular section said it would be closed for the week due to the “unexpected and prolonged” demonstrations.

In a statement made released earlier this week, it said the protests made it difficult for people to get to the entrance.

About 20 people protested at a border checkpoint next to the Thai province of Kanchanaburi this morning, the Bangkok Post reported. Thai authorities warned tourists to stay away from the Three Pagodas area on the border.

Myanmar’s influential army chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, has urged Thailand to “review the evidence” that led to the convictions to “avoid a situation in which the innocent … were wrongly punished,” according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha responded angrily to what was seen by many as a message from the Myanmar leadership.

“They have the right to appeal, don’t they?” he was quoted as saying by Thai media yesterday. “Isn’t this the same legal practice all over the world?”

Thai police spokesman General Dejnarong Suthichanbancha said the investigation “was done transparently and in compliance with international standards”.

But human rights groups and supporters of the convicted men have pointed to numerous flaws in the legal process and the conduct of the Thai police.

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