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Migrant workers convicted of murdering Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in Thailand are spared death sentence



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A pair of migrant workers convicted of murdering two young British tourists on a Thai holiday island have had their death sentences reduced to life imprisonment.

Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, from Burma, were sentenced to death in 2015 for killing David Miller and Hannah Witheridge.

But they were among many convicts in Thai prisons whose sentences were reduced under a clemency decree issued by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The decree, which appeared to cover thousands of prisoners, took effect Friday with its publication in the Royal Gazette and was to mark the king’s 68th birthday.

Mr Miller, 24, from Jersey, and Ms Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, were found dead on a beach on the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, a popular diving destination, in 2014. A post-mortem examination showed Ms Witheridge had been raped.

The pair were convicted of murdering Mr Miller and murdering and raping Ms Witheridge.

The high-profile case caused extensive controversy because of allegations police mishandled evidence and beat the suspects into making confessions.

There were suspicions they were scapegoats for a crime that police were under pressure to solve because it could adversely effect Thailand’s lucrative tourist industry.

A well-known Thai forensics expert testified that the DNA evidence that was central in the prosecution case did not link them to the scene. Human Rights Watch called the guilty verdict “profoundly disturbing.”

The Supreme Court in August last year upheld their murder convictions and sentences. It dismissed allegations of physical mistreatment and mishandling of forensic evidence, saying the forensic work was handled by respectable institutions and it found no proof of torture.

The death penalty is rarely carried out in Thailand.

The pair had always denied the charges.

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