Why The Trial Of Two Young Burmese For Murder Desperately Needs Monitoring

Flying Sporran’s Weekend Diary

Yesterday in the UK the Guardian published a very good article about the plight of the two young Burmese charged with the murder of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller on the Thai island of Kho Tao.

The article carried criticism of Scotland Yard and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in particular. Both had prejudiced the trial by advising and then assisting the family to issue a statement which was then seen to support the Thai Police investigation.

The tone of the Guardian article was level. Not hysterical of course. But you do not expect that from the Guardian. But one could summarise the article by saying that 21-year-olds Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo have been officially ‘fucked’.

The Scotland Yard officers involved who came to observe could in no way get a full grasp of the intricacies of how Thai police operate, or even how Thai society works. But if ever there was a trial which needs monitoring it’s this one. If ever a trial needs a verbatim report – it’s this one.

Yesterday I spent a day in court in Bangkok. It was not an unpleasant affair but my evidence was conducted through an interpreter who’s English in parts I could not understand at all.

Having given evidence, the judges politely read my evidence back to me through the interpreter. At one point it was stated: ‘The witness did not answer the question?’

“What question was that?” I asked. “There isn’t a question I have not answered”.

Clearly leaving that as a record on court file might suggest that I was in some way at a loss for words when presented by a difficult legal point or even obstructive to the court, or worse hiding something.

“That is what we have recorded here and we cannot change it,” said the Judge. I let it go. What I wanted to say was: ‘Well why are you reading my evidence back to me?’  But that might sound critical of a Thai judge –and if you are critical of a Thai judge you are critical of the highest institution in the land.

Then moments later I was quoted as saying Google hid people’s identities on Google websites. Again that was not what I said, I contested. What I said was that one could pay a service like ‘Mark Monitor’ to act as the owner of a Google website and mask the real owner. Thus owners of many Google sites were hidden.

‘But that is what we have recorded here, “ said the judge again. It’s not a world shattering point, but in a murder trial translating from Burmese to Thai it could be absolutely crucial.

Moreover, as usual, large chunks of my evidence were not read back.   That’s not because the judges necessarily wanted to hide something – it’s because the judge just note down what evidence they think is suitable or relevant.  It’s a minefield out there.

At the end of each day’s hearing all those attending the court are expected to put their signature to the evidence as recorded by the judges. That says you have agreed and thus you cannot later complain.

I duly signed. Why? I do not mind rocking the boat in Thailand but rocking the boat in court I fear could have worse implications. And that I am afraid happens in pretty much every case.

5 thoughts on “Why The Trial Of Two Young Burmese For Murder Desperately Needs Monitoring

  1. Jesus D, how can there be any justice if you have a trial between none Thai speaking parties, translated into Thai and back into the various languages by persons obviously not competent to do so?
    Did the bloated old criminal, bam pot and ginger flabby receive the same erratic translation from their court appointed translator? It does cut both way I hope……

  2. There will be no trial that will act as any form of " closure " for the families of the deceased. We know that, any Farang with more than two years here knows that, the Thai cognoscenti know that, the Royal Thai Police and judiciary will certainly know that, Mark Kent and his minions will know that (but will not admit it publicly), the entire English press in Thailand knows it but the truly sad thing is that the families who have been so cruelly duped by a disgraceful Foreign Office and utterly hapless Metropolitan Police Service will not know it until it is just too damn late and this horrendous crime will have claimed another two victims. It's a crying shame but eventually the scales will fall away and the parents will have to face the awful truth about how their own government and agents have let them down so, so badly.

  3. Totally agree, Gerry.

    Kent can't agree publicly, he has to follow the diplomatic line. The FCO do not however have to continue the charade of pretending everything in Thailand is rosy. Drummond tells it as it is, though he has to be a little cautious of course. They and the UK media could do the same if they had any balls.

    I understand they can't tell the real reasons for their attitude to Thailand – the UK debt imbalance with Thailand and China; but that does not excuse their weak and soft pedaling on Thai matters.

    Matt Owens Rees

  4. Whenever there is a case to report at a Police Station the best way to follow is to write it in English Language, have it translated into Thai Language , after having the translation duly revised so that one is sure that it is all correct, deliver it to the reporting Police. He will copy the translation on to his file and that is then the official version of one's story.

    Maybe the same method would also work at a Court of Justice, to deliver the written and translated evidence to the Judge ?

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