Parents of murdered British backpacker 'grateful' to Thai king

Parents of murdered British backpacker 'grateful' to Thai king

August 16, 2020

‘Grateful’ parents of British backpacker who was murdered in Thailand thank nation’s king after he reduced killers’ death sentences to life in prison

  • Victim’s parents have expressed gratitude to Thai king for his ‘clemency’
  • Comes after their son’s killers sentences were commuted to life in prison 
  • Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were originally sentenced to death for two murders
  • British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were killed in Koh Tao
  • Convictions were controversial with supporters arguing they had been framed

The family of a British backpacker who was murdered in Thailand have welcomed a royal pardon which has seen the killers’ death sentences commuted to life in prison. 

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun were found guilty of the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and of killing David Miller, 24, after their battered bodies were found on a beach on the southern resort island of Koh Tao in September 2014.  

David Miller’s parents, Ian and Sue Miller, said they were ‘grateful’ to Thai King Vajiralongkorn for reviewing the sentences.

The couple have previously campaigned against the death penalty.

In a statement they said: ‘We are grateful to His Majesty the King of Thailand for showing his clemency to the murderers of our son David.’ 

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun’s lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman said the pardon decree – which was published Friday and applies to all inmates on death row – was ‘effective immediately’.  

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were sentenced to death for the murder of two British backpackers had their sentences commuted from death to life in prison on Friday

The two men were convicted and sentenced in 2015 and the verdict was upheld by an appeals court in 2017 and the Supreme Court in August 2019 but have their sentences were change to life in prison on Friday thanks to a royal decree.

The convictions were mired in controversy with supporters of the two men arguing that they had been framed and that they had initially confessed to the crimes under duress.

Their sentences will be reduced to life imprisonment after a royal pardon decree was published on Friday, their lawyer Nakhon Chompuchat said.

‘The two are eligible under a section in the royal pardon decree to get their death sentences reduced to life imprisonment,’ Nakhon said.

‘They will also have a chance to get their sentences reduced further on good behaviour.’

The decree published on Friday said the royal pardons were granted to commemorate the king’s birthday on July 28 and to ‘illustrate the king’s clemency’.

The migrant workers from Myanmar were jailed for the murder of David Miller (right) and the murder and rape of Hannah Witheridge (left) in 2014

‘I can’t find words to express how thankful we are,’ Ye Zaw Tun, a brother of Win Zaw Tun, told AFP on Saturday following the decree.

‘We knew this case was totally unfair, and we sometimes feel bitterness, but we want to say thanks for the royal pardon.’

A commutation of their sentence had been the pair’s only remaining hope after their final appeal failed last year, with Thailand’s top court ruling the evidence against them was clear.

The case triggered a strong reaction from Myanmar, where many felt the two men had been given an unfair trial as low-paid migrant workers – an integral part of Thailand’s workforce – are often regarded with contempt by its public.

The police were accused of buckling under pressure to solve a crime that attracted worldwide attention.

Defence lawyers claimed authorities mishandled DNA related to the case and did not allow independent analysis of the samples.

Win Zaw Tun’s brother said the men were in good health in prison but called for them to be ‘immediately released’.

The royal pardon comes as Thailand is rocked by near-daily anti-government demonstrations by student-led groups.

Aw Lin’s mother Phyu Shwe Nu submitted a plea for clemency from the Thai king in 2019 (she is pictured holding a pictured of her son earlier this month)

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