Thai king commutes death sentence for 2 Myanmar in UK tourist murder case

King Maha Vajiralongkorn granted the duo a royal pardon on the occasion of his birthday on July 28. (AFP pic)

BANGKOK: Two migrant workers from Myanmar on death row in Thailand for the 2014 murder of two British backpackers had their sentences commuted to life in prison on Friday thanks to a royal decree, their lawyer said.

The two workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, were sentenced to death for the murder of David Miller and the murder and rape of Hannah Witheridge, whose bodies were discovered on a beach on the popular tourist island of Koh Tao in September 2014.

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.

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 told Reuters.

“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”.

It was not immediately clear how many prisoners were eligible for pardons or reduction of sentences under different criteria listed in the decree.