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Thailand court upholds death penalty for Myanmar men over murder of British tourists

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Thursday 29 August 2019 16:41, UK

Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were murdered on Koh Tao
Image:Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were murdered in 2014

Two men are facing execution in Thailand after their convictions for the murder of two British tourists were upheld.

The bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a beach on the popular resort island of Koh Tao in September 2014.Sponsored link

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Ms Witheridge, 23, had been raped and battered to death while Mr Miller, 24, suffered head injuries and drowned after being dragged into the sea.

Myanmar migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun arrive at the Nonthaburi provincial court in Thailand, August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Image:Migrant workers Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo are facing execution after losing their final appeal

Migrant workers Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, also known as Win Zaw Htun, were found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death in December 2015.

But their supporters claimed the pair, from Myanmar, former Burma, had been framed and the DNA evidence used to convict them had been mishandled.

Lawyers for the convicted men argued their initial confessions, which were later retracted, had been made under torture.

They also said the men did not know their rights when originally questioned.

Lawyer Nadthasiri Bergman told Sky News: "They were not given the opportunity to talk with the legal council, no lawyers and also no interpreter."

The investigation into the killings were mired in controversy at the time, and Thai police were widely criticised for their handling of the case.

Following the 2015 verdicts there were protests in Myanmar with many people believing the two workers were scapegoats.

Human Rights Watch at the time also described the convictions as "profoundly disturbing".

Protesters hold posters and shout as they protest in support of Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun
Image:There were protests in Myanmar following the verdicts in 2015 with claims the men were scapegoats

However, Thailand's Supreme Court has now upheld the guilty verdicts, saying forensic and mobile phone evidence supported the original sentences.

The condemned men sat with their legs shackled and hands cuffed together as they listened to the decision.

Their legal team say they will now apply for a royal pardon from the king in the hope their death sentences will be overturned.

In a statement after the men were first found guilty, Mr Miller's brother, Michael, said justice had been served, adding the family believed the Thai police had conducted a thorough investigation and the evidence against the defendants was overwhelming.

Miss Witheridge, from Norfolk, and Mr Miller, from Jersey, had met on Koh Tao while staying at the same hotel.

The brutality of the killings dented Thailand's reputation as a happy-go-lucky tourist haven and raised serious questions about its treatment of migrant workers