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Thailand’s police chief has defended the arrest of two Myanmar men for the murder of two British tourists amid concern the pair may have been tortured before admitting to the murders.
The bodies of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found on September 15 with severe head wounds near where they were staying on the southern island of Koh Tao.
Police were widely accused of bungling the investigation and pressure grew for them to solve it quickly.
Last week, police said two Myanmar workers had admitted to killing the tourists and that DNA found on Ms Witheridge matched samples taken from the two men.
“I insist that all officials in this case have done a good job. A perfect job,” national police chief General Somyot Poompanmuang told a news conference in Bangkok.
He said there were originally 243 suspects in the case.
The accused pair, who have been identified only as Saw Rim and Win, both 21, have been charged with the murder of both Britons and the rape of Ms Witheridge.
If found guilty, they could face the death penalty.
Their lawyer Aung Myo Thant said the case was a “set-up and not based on hard facts”, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, an independent Myanmar news organisation based in Norway.
“From what we have learned, there are inconsistencies with both the forensic report and evidence provided in the case,” he was quoted as saying.
Police have stressed the importance of their DNA evidence.
“DNA found on the deceased’s body matches the suspects,” lead investigator Suwat Chaengyodsuk said.
“This is something that cannot be denied.”
Police said a mobile phone belonging to Mr Miller was also found on Saw. A third Myanmar migrant worker is in police custody but has not been charged.
Police dismiss abuse allegations
Some rights groups have voiced concern over accusations of abuse during the investigation.
“A number of serious allegations of physical abuse against Myanmar workers as part of the questioning process in this murder case have been raised to us,” Andy Hall, a Thailand-based rights researcher, said.
“The accusations do not concern the two or three persons currently detained for the murder.
“We do not have enough evidence or information at this stage to comment on how or if the two accused have been scapegoated for this crime or not.”
Migrant workers often face discrimination in Thailand and have been used as scapegoats for crimes before. But police denied using force during their interrogation.
“I confirm that there was no abuse of any of the suspects,” Mr Suwat said.
The case will be forwarded to a court on October 14.
The tourist industry accounts for 10 per cent of Thailand’s economy and has yet to recover from a slump in visitors during months of protests on the streets of Bangkok that preceded a military coup in May.