Posts share false claim that 'Thai king pardoned Burmese pair jailed for murder of British tourists'

·3 min read

Multiple Burmese-language posts claim that Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has pardoned two Burmese migrant workers who were convicted in 2015 of murdering two British tourists on a southern Thai island. The posts -- shared thousands of times -- circulated following news reports that the king would give a royal pardon to tens of thousands of the kingdom's inmates. However, the claim is false. Thai prison authorities told AFP the Burmese pair -- Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun -- remain in prison as of August 31, 2022. A spokesperson for the pair's legal team said the claim was "a totally untrue rumour".

"His Royal Majesty of Thailand has pardoned Win Zaw Tun and Zaw Lin who were accused and sentenced to prison for the 2014 Koh Tao murder case," reads this Burmese-language Facebook post on August 28, 2022.

The post -- which included a photo of Win Zaw Tun and Zaw Lin -- has been shared more than 960 times.

"The king decided to pardon the two after hearing about the pleas from the Burmese citizens on the Thai Royal Family official page as a humanitarian act and a kind gesture to a neighbouring country," the post continues.

"They will be given $2 million as compensation by the Thai government, and will be escorted to Yangon International Airport by the Royal Thai police force."

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on September 2, 2022

The post circulated online after the Thai media reported on August 13 that more than 100,000 inmates serving jail terms would be released early or have their sentences reduced under a royal pardon to mark the Thai king's 70th birthday and the queen mother's 90th birthday.

Win Zaw Tun, also known as Wai Phyo, was sentenced to death along with Zaw Lin in 2019 for the murders of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge in the southern Thai diving resort of Koh Tao in 2014.

The Burmese pair received a surge of sympathy in their homeland after a controversial trial that sparked protests in Myanmar, AFP reported.

Their sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2020, following a mass royal pardon.

Similar posts have been shared more than 1,300 times after they were shared on Facebook here, here and here, while this blog post also made a similar claim.

However, the claim is false.

False rumour

Andy Hall, an activist for migrant workers' rights and the international affairs coordinator for the pair's legal defence team, told AFP that the claim was "a totally untrue rumour."

"There is no basis to the claims circulating on social media of their release. There was recently a royal pardon exercise announced in Thailand, and Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo may well be eligible for a reduction in their sentence from this, as they are whenever there is a formal pardon for Thai convicts for which they are sometimes eligible," he told AFP on August 31, 2022.

"Myself and the legal team are checking into whether [they] have had their sentence reduced in the recent Royal pardon exercise, but it is certain they have not been released from their imprisonment," Hall added.

Tawatchai Chaiwat, a spokesperson for The Thai Department of Corrections, told AFP the pair remained in jail as of August 31, 2022, after being sentenced to life in prison.

"Both [of them] are still in prison," he said. "They were sentenced to life imprisonment".

According to the prisoners’ database provided by the department, the pair remained in Bang Kwang Central prison, north of Bangkok, as of August 31, 2022.

Correction: This article was updated on 2/9/22 to correct a typo in the claim translation.