The Koh Tao Murders: Did you do it? Have you got any clue who did?

The following report was written by a non journalist and is interesting as it goes into some detail as to how courts work in Thailand for those not aware. It is unedited and the views are that of the American author Sim Plife (If Simple), a local foreigner who put it up on her Facebook page, and has invited use.

Journalists are forbidden to take a record of what is said in Thai courts. And even though they can take a verbatim report, it is what the judge says in his tape recorder which is the only ‘true’ (but in reality not) record of what goes on in a Thai court. This of course affords a massive opportunity to alter evidence…then you have to add to that the lack of presumption of innocence.

On Boxing Day the prosecution attempted to have witnesses statements introduced without calling the witnesses. Some of them were apparently from the AC Resort.

9:30 am, 26 December 2014, Koh Samui Provincial Courthouse, supposedly 3 km outside of Nathon. 

Enter the courtroom, posted start time 9:00 am. Empty. Inquired a nearby gentleman as to the true location or time of the trial, he asks the guard. Reply, maybe around 10-ish, but I do have the right room. Turns out he’s part of the prosecution team. Soon, there are three westerners inside, one is me. The others ask of my involvement. Casual, concern, my reply. They are advocates, the man in support, the woman on watch for human rights. Enter one Thai advocate lawyer, the wife of the foreigner man. 

Prosecution files in, two counsellors- one robed Prosecutor, one Chief Prosecutor for Samui, plus two assistants, reams of documents, spools of paper. Presently, four robed defense counsellors enter, produce a few stacks of docs. A door now opens along the back wall, and the two accused Burmese youths amble in, head-shaven, attired in prison burlap, lugging ankle chains and shy smiles, led by a Thai guard, and sit directly in front of me. This is at first unsettling. 

No throngs, no protest group, no support for the deceased, none curious. Well, me. Add in the contingent for migrant workers’ rights, a few others, and the three rows of defense pews are nearly full. Three monks proceed straight behind prosecution, and quietly sit looking forward. The two rows behind them are empty. 

Now the hoped-for moment arrives for the accused. The families have just arrived from Myanmar, pile in behind the imprisoned lads, black-jacketed FED escorts in tow, and a few of us retreat to the back row. 

Two judges enter through their narrow side door, and all rise. As they sit, we sit. Game on. 

This is Thai court, for me a new experience. The curiosity I feel immediately is the loose and casual nature of the proceedings. Low volume chat starts up all around, the centrally-seated judge begins talking and the prosecution begins replying and consulting documents, while my poor command of Thai language lacks the ability to follow anything first-hand.  

It must be understood that all the case particulars have been explained to me after-the-fact, that in truth, this is a second-hand account of the Koh Tao Murder Trial, day one. 

The left side judge is visibly ill, or quite in an uncomfortable state, and soon excuses himself, to be replaced later in the day with another judge. Meanwhile the witness list is being presented by prosecution. 

Apparently it’s quite lengthy, and the prosecutor requests that some of the names be excused from actually testifying. The main defense counsellor, apparently playing hard ball, insists that if prosecution feels so many names need to be on the list, then they most certainly will appear in court, as well. 

Defense then produces their own witness list, and a similar discussion ensues for this. More than 70 individuals at this point, must at some point take the stand in this trial. 

A second apparent prosecution blunder now comes to bear. Among the pronouncements of wrong-doing that prosecution proceeds to assign to the accused is the issue of the two lads working illegally there on Koh Tao. Of note here, is the implications this accusation would have for all of Koh Tao’s businesses- indeed for all islands in the Gulf and beyond- but never mind this for now. 

Defense immediately produces the passport of one of the Burmese lads, something that the police on the case somehow knew nothing of. 

Prosecution proceeds now to leaf through this passport, and at least one of their accusations has, by appearance, just now been squelched. 

Lunch break, and our growing group of advocacy- for migrant workers, human rights- and pardon me for inserting myself for concern- are in frequent discussion about this and that in the case, convening over pews inside court, feverishly tapping news feed into cellphones out of court, and I am treated to a rich crash-course in how concern argues for lives in Thai legal proceedings. 

I must inject here the astounded kind of respect I suddenly realize for people, everywhere, who extend concern into a life’s calling, often just scratching by or volunteering, with the limited funding offered for defensive support. 

I am among heroes today. Journalists, lawyers, rights’ workers, and the various justice campaigners all walking the tightrope of advocacy, where even slight wrong moves can result in heavy-handed negatives for their causes and defendants. My gut feels tight just in the writing of this. 

Afternoon brings more prosecution evidence, long rolls of photo-enfused paper unravelled before the judge, more pronouncements by document, more hushed conversation moving throughout the room. 

At one point- recanted to me- the judge flat out asks the accused if they in fact did commit this crime. Answer, no. 

Now the judge asks the accused if they in fact did not do this thing, could they perhaps enlighten the court as to clues towards who actually might have? Answer, again, no. 

My inexperience demands to know at this point, is this in fact a jaw-dropper….certainly it seems astounding to me, and my thai-speaking advocate friends look, well, astounded.

Pure conjecture leaps forward by now asking if the judge in fact is now suddenly sympathetic towards the accused, and a measured optimism begins to rule the day for all on the defense side. 

Having said that, the main defense consellor is now seen at his bench in a knowing kind of grin, at times effusively beaming. This is becoming quite some day in court. 

A judge in these courts has quite the duty-laden job, it seems. Much of the day for all is spent watching the judge discussing, questioning, receiving testimony, then filing through mounds of information and speaking into a recorder, occasionally, and re-playing it to listen, then passing on these now-official trial records to a headphoned person who sits off to the side with a monitor and types out the offical transcriptions, while another assistant hands finished documents back to the judge. 

Just before days’ end we learn of another break in the case. The judge now declares a delay in the trial, in order for defense to properly wade through the more than 400 pages of presented information and photo-reams- to honorably prepare its case. 

The date of July 8 is given as the re-convening date. The defense team is cautiously joyous, the advocates nearly beside themselves. I am nearly horrified, knowing the accused must languish yet another seven months in thai jail. This is not lost on the mothers of the accused- both begin weeping and groping at their boys, and are gently restrained by the guard. 

Still, one in this game must learn to count blessings however they may be given, as is duly explained to me. 

It is suggested to me by the advocates to go over and visit the accused, as it would do them some good to talk with people. Two of us then sit with them for a full ten minutes, offering what fellowship and encouragement as one might, all things considered. 

It occurs to me now, how diminutive, delicate and sensitive these two are, polite, respectful; befitting of Asian youth who have been properly raised. We are introduced to the mothers, and duly pre-empted as one of the quiet monks comes to bestow blessings upon the boys. 

I summarize this account with a question: What’s on trial here?  

Certainly, two Burmese migrant workers, caught in the vicinity on the night in question, and charged with murder. Violent assailants or covenient scapegoats, for lack of other immediate candidates?
Due Process, on trial.

Prosecution, being received more cautiously, more icily throughout the day by a judge just not having the parade of prosecution information as presented, and bestowing an increased leniency towards the defense. 

Integrity on trial. 

If we assume the two accused Burmese to be victims of convenient selection, to thereby stand for murder, why were they in fact chosen? Culpable probability, or social status? For exhibiting signs of guilt and dripping with evidence, or for being expendable human fodder? 

Human Decency, on trial. 

And finally, Buddhist monks not commonly seen in Thai court, sitting immediate to prosecution and calmly staring at the judge throughout the day. 

Karma, on trial. 

just thoughts. consider this freeware. utilize edit or file inactive, your call.
Koh Pha-Ngan, 27 December 2014.

20 thoughts on “The Koh Tao Murders: Did you do it? Have you got any clue who did?

  1. Difficult to read the signs from this overture to the proceedings. What is puzzling is the evident fact the prosecution is not trumpeting the alleged DNA evidence. In cases of rape this is "THE" evidence forming the central plank of any prosecution and everything else is simply circumstantial.
    Inexplicable really, and in any other jurisdiction quite impossible unless of course the DNA evidence is not only inconclusive but also subject to legal challenge……….

    Anyhow, kudos to the "court reporter" for her sterling work.

  2. I don't think anyone can rightly understand how the Thai justice system works unless you are fluent in the Thai language. It's a very strange set up as we discovered when my son was murdered there in 2005. Out of the six persons present only three where called to give evidence apparently the very short whiteness statements were all the court required. The. Thai man would killed Richard was found guilty but it took until 2013 for him to finally start his 15 year sentence. In our case there was no doubt about the identity of the murderer I hope these two get a fair trial and the parents of the murder victims get all the help they need from our government.

  3. It has been said by many people that the two men accused of murder are gentle, calm, respectful, friendly and very normal people who couldn't ever have that "monster" split personality trait to think of, act and
    have the courage to perpetrate such complex crime. Also there is the physical aspect or muscle power involved, to be able to dominate and overdo two much stronger and bigger people in the dark who apparently were not standing still. What has never been mentioned yet in any of the reports by the media are their character traits. School Teachers, former employers, friends, relatives, local provincial Police where they grew up, social workers and others, do they have any such criminal or simple offense records that could denote an aggressive or imbalance in their behavior ? Have they ever been under any sort of psychiatric or psychological treatment ? Have they now been subject to psychiatric scrutiny that could reveal a hidden dangerous aspect to their personality ? Would not be a big coincidence that two people under such circumstances without any prior planning would engage in such difficult act as decisively going about murdering two strangers out of the blue.? Luckily there is one brave free lance Journalist who by the way is very observant and writes well present at the trial, this is very important because it will give all the world an idea if Justice is really practiced by Thai Courts of Law. On the other hand it would take a Justice system enormous courage to convict and condemn to death or life imprisonment two youngsters without absolute proof of guilt.Whatever has been said about Thai Police and Thai Courts, I still cannot believe there is a Judge in the system who would have that kind of moral and convict for what they say 'save face", Everyone be sure, these two will be freed if there is no solid evidence.

    1. Ivan, no offense but have you spent much time in Thailand? Truth is strategically murky thing there. It makes some difference if the facts are obtained and used to find a verdict, but not nearly as much as in western courts of law. Ultimately courts and judges do as they are told, not as they would see feet, and all cases with this much media attention become highly politicized. Anyway, they don't put much stock in mental health profiles. They mainly believe that such things are caused by demon possession.

    2. Ivan, no offense but have you spent much time in Thailand? Truth is strategically murky thing there. It makes some difference if the facts are obtained and used to find a verdict, but not nearly as much as in western courts of law. Ultimately courts and judges do as they are told, not as they would see feet, and all cases with this much media attention become highly politicized. Anyway, they don't put much stock in mental health profiles. They mainly believe that such things are caused by demon possession.

  4. What I fail to understand is why this woman, sitting in on a trial that is being held in a language she doesn't understand, is presenting, by her own admission, a report that is second-hand and therefore not of any great consequence.
    The other thing I do not understand is why this woman, along with many other commentators not involved in the case, refers to the two 25 year old accused men as "youths", "lads" and "boys".

  5. First Bill the kids are 21. Second I have spoken to people in the court and they verify this report. Clearly she talked to people when she was there. It's a way of reporting here often used by foreign correspondents.

  6. Lest anyone clings to the fiction that because these boys are being tried they have a case to answer according to any evidence, it may be prudent to remind ourselves that there is not a single person in this country with a functioning brain who actually believes they are guilty.
    The puffery of diplomatspeak, witterings of Foreign Office casuists and naive utterances of those who are badly informed of the reality here, will not alter that.
    Irrespective of an adverse outcome, these boys are innocent and please do not lose sight of that.
    And lastly, anyone with even the most passing of knowledge about Asian culture knows full well those 21 year olds are boys.

  7. What we need to ascertain is do the UK Authority's have the DNA from Hannah. If do can the defence now conduct its own irrefutable tests using accredited UK and Perhaps Singaporean Labs to Discredit the Prosecutions case. Lets face it would certainly be in the interest of both family's in the UK to agree to any evidence retained in the UK to be shared so as to Prove or Disprove who killed their children.

  8. Since the Met have stated that they were merely observers in this case why has there been no statement from the murdered kids families explaining that the Burmese had a difficult case to answer? Firstly, they were lied to and now it looks as if they have been told to keep quiet.
    They should be made to explain their comments which the Thais will use as the main statement. The gun was loaded by these comments. To have any chance of a fair trial the FCO and MET must come clean. Any cover ups should be. David Camerons priority. Unless of course, he is the instigator

    1. As I have said before, his hands are tied. I'm sure h doesn't like the way this is working out anymore than any of us. I agree the FCO and Met should come clean but they won't. The fiction will continue and of course it helps the Thais.

  9. It was Cameron who constructed the move on behalf of the victims families, therefore he must be accountable for the findings which have already been made to the families as THE EVIDENCE AGAINST THE BURMESE. SHOWS THEY WILL HAVE A HARD JOB PROVING THEIR. INNOCENCE.
    The families have gone silent, the MET have changed their story and the FCO having basically sentenced the 2 boys to death are also quiet.
    It is time for Cameron to explain the actions taken by him and the people involved. Until this is done there can be no fair trial following the family statements backing the Thai police

  10. The MET and the FCO have until next September to show their hand if need be, plenty of time for the defense team to prepare a solid case, the validity of the DNA being one example.

    1. Andrew I think that an earlier comment you made that one interpretation of the FCO and MET's ambiguous report is that they have adopted a "we are watching" stance which may well turn out to be the correct one. The extension of the trial date to July is certainly great news for the defense.

  11. The FCO only stated that the evidence against the accused "appears" compelling not "is" compelling. The unexpected extension of the trial date may be the sign of some outside pressure.

  12. I agree Ian. But the UK FCO, Met, and Downing street are not coming across as saints are they? As Ad has said they have already played their hand and we all known why they had to do so.

Comments are closed.