Ranong court sentences Myanmar migrants on murder charges

By HTUN KHAING | FRONTIER 

YANGON – Thailand’s Ranong cpurt yesterday convicted four Myanmar migrant workers for charges relating to the 2015 murder of a 17-year-old schoolgirl, handing them prison sentences of between two and eight years.

After admitting to the crime more than three years ago, the four men later retracted their confessions and claimed to be innocent, saying they had signed the documents only after being tortured by Thai police.

A judge sentenced the four men after 75 hearings, said U Min Oo from the Foundation for Education and Development, who supported the workers through the trial.

The main suspect, Ko Moe Zin Aung, was sentenced to four years behind bars and fined 810,000 baht (K34.5 million).

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He was arrested one month after Orawee Sampaotong was found dead in Ranong by police, on September 28, 2015. His case was heard by Ranong’s juvenile court because he was just 15 years old, at the time of his arrest.

The juvenile court also sentenced Ko Kyaw Soe Win to two years in prison and fined him 270,000 baht. Min Oo said Kyaw Soe Win would be freed, because he had been imprisoned for more than two years.

“Thai lawyers are preparing the documents, so that he can be released today,” he said.

The two other men received heavier sentences after their trial was heard in Ranong’s district court. Ko Sein Ka Tone was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment and Ko Wai Lin received a prison term of six years. They were both fined 570,000 baht.

Min Oo said he would discuss the verdict with the workers’ families and prepare an appeal.

He said Thai police have ignored the fact that DNA found on the victim does not match that of the accused and CCTV records prove that the accused were working elsewhere at the time of the murder.

The FED maintains the four workers are innocent and has likened the case to the high-profile trial and conviction, in 2015, of two Myanmar migrant workers, for the 2014 murder of British backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge, on the Thai holiday island of Koh Tao.

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