October 29, 2014 / 9:15 AM / 3 years ago

Thai PM says new DNA tests can be done in British murder probe

2 Min Read

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha waves after a handover ceremony for the new Royal Thai Army Chief at the Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok September 30, 2014.Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday challenged critics of a police investigation into the murder of two British tourists saying new DNA tests can be done as concern grows that two men arrested over the killings might have been framed.

Two Myanmar men - migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21 - were charged with the murder of Britons David Miller, 24, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, whose bodies were found on a beach on the southern island of Koh Tao on Sept. 15.

Post-mortem examination results showed the British backpackers died from blows to the head and Witheridge was raped.

Police said the Myanmar men confessed to the crime and their DNA matched samples taken from Witheridge's body - despite the fact that the two had yet to appear in court to face any charge and speak for themselves.

They later retracted their confessions and said they were tortured into confessing. Police deny that.

"We will not block the right of the suspects to fight the case and we can even test their DNA again if there is suspicion that they are not the culprits," Prayuth told reporters.

"If people think that there is no justice in this case then we will be happy to test again."

His comments come amid growing diplomatic concern that the two Myanmar men may have been abused during interrogation. Thailand's human rights commission has launched an inquiry into allegations of police torture.

Police were under intense pressure to solve the high profile case and were widely accused of bungling the investigation in the days following the attack.

The murders have dented tourism, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of gross domestic product, at a time when Thailand is still under martial law after a May military coup that had already kept some tourists away.

Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel

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