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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rights of the Accused: Koh Tao Murder Case

Two British tourists were brutally murdered at one of Thailand’s most well-known islands, Koh Tao. While the local police were investigating the event, the media and human rights groups closely followed their investigation to ensure that proper procedures with followed. An important concern was whether those charged and arrested actually killed the British couple or were just scapegoats.

According to the news, two Myanmar migrant workers are being accused of killing two young British backpackers. The accused confessed to the crime and were forced to demonstrate their crime to the media. However, the two men later recanted their confession and claimed to have been beaten and threatened with electrocution in order to confess. This has placed the administration of justice under a cloud of suspicion.

In order to provide justice to all parties, the authorities must provide due process to those who are charged with a crime. The accused is innocent unless a court renders a decision of guilt. Here is some useful information for those who have been charged with a crime.

The provisions of the Thai Criminal Procedure code prescribe the rights of the alleged offender and the accused person as follows:

  • When arrested, the police official who conducted the arrest has to notify the person that he is going to be arrested, of the charge, details and causes of the arrest, and if there is a warrant for their arrest.

    In addition, the official must notify the person that he has a right to remain silent; such statement may be used as evidence against him in trial; and other rights as may be necessary to be informed. He also has the right to meet and consult with a lawyer, ask for a temporary release, and request release if he has been unlawfully detained.

  • When in proceedings of an inquiry, the alleged offender is entitled to have a lawyer as his defense counsel and attend his examination. If the alleged offender is under the age of eighteen years as the date of the charged has notified or in case having a death penalty, the state have to provide a lawyer as his defense counsel if the accused does not have one.

  • If the suspect does not have the mental capacity of an adult even if over the age of 18, the suspect will be examined by a psychologist or social worker and public prosecutor to determine capacity. The examination of the suspect shall be arranged separately in an appropriate place with attendance of a psychologist or social welfare worker, a person requested by the child and the public prosecutor. The examination should ensure the mental age of the suspect and to ensure that the suspect is not repetitively asked a question without reasonable cause. The video and voice recorder shall be arranged during such examination.

Read more about the rights of the accused in Thailand here by Siam Legal.

Section 135 of the Thai Criminal Procedure Code specifically outlaws the use of torture, deception, force, guarantees, promises, or any unlawful acts to induce a confession. If the official fails to conduct an interrogation in accordance with the rules, the confession or statement of the accused shall not be admitted by the court. The use of such tactics to induce a confession can also be used as evidence to have the charge thrown out in court.

If the Koh Tao murder suspects were tortured, their statements may not be admitted in Court. In addition, anyone who is guilty of torturing the suspects will have committed an offense against freedom (section 309 of Criminal Code) and bodily harm (section 295 of Criminal Code). If the torture causes grievous bodily harm will be guilty of assault and battery (section 297 of Criminal Code). Those charged with the listed crimes face a potential punishment of imprisonment from one year to ten years and/or a fine of two thousand baht to twenty thousand baht.


Pokpak Thongbhakdee
Pokpak Thongbhakdee
Mr. Pokpak (Pup) Thongbhakdee is working as a legal practitioner on one of the law firms in Thailand focusing on Litigation and Dispute Resolution. He obtained a L.L.B. from Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok and continues to further his legal studies at the Institute of Legal Education of the Thai Bar Association. Prior to that, Mr. Thongbhakdee has also worked as intern focusing on Thai Intellectual Property Law.

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