Several Burmese-language publications claim Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has pardoned two Burmese migrant workers who were convicted in 2015 of murdering two British tourists on an island in southern Thailand. The posts – shared thousands of times – circulated following reports that the king would grant a royal pardon to tens of thousands of inmates across the kingdom. However, the claim is false. Thai prison authorities told AFP that the Burmese couple – Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun – were still in prison as of August 31, 2022. A spokesperson for the couple’s legal team said the allegation was ” a totally false rumour.”
“Her Royal Majesty of Thailand pardoned Win Zaw Tun and Zaw Lin who were charged and sentenced to prison for the 2014 Koh Tao murder case,” reads this Burmese Facebook post from August 28, 2022.
The message – which included a photo of Win Zaw Tun and Zaw Lin — has been shared over 960 times.
“The King has decided to pardon the two after hearing about the appeals of Burmese citizens on the official page of the Thai Royal Family as a humanitarian act and a kind gesture towards a neighboring country,” the post continues.
“They will receive $2 million as compensation from the Thai government and will be escorted to Yangon International Airport by the Royal Thai Police.”
Screenshot of misleading post, taken September 2, 2022
The message circulated online after Thai media reported on August 13 that more than 100,000 inmates serving prison sentences would be released early or have their sentences reduced under a royal pardon to mark the king’s 70th birthday. Thailand 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 at the southern Thai dive resort of Koh Tao in 2014.
The Burmese couple received an outpouring of sympathy in their home country 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 over 1,300 times after being shared on Facebook here, here and here, while this blog post also made a similar claim.
However, the claim is false.
Andy Hall, a migrant workers’ rights campaigner and international affairs coordinator for the couple’s legal defense team, told AFP the allegation was “a totally false rumour”.
“There is no basis for the claims circulating on social media regarding their release. A royal pardon exercise was recently announced in Thailand, and Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo may well be eligible for reduced sentences, as they are whenever there is a formal pardon for Thai convicts that they are sometimes eligible for,” he told AFP on August 31, 2022.
“The legal team and I are checking whether [they] had their sentences reduced in the recent royal pardon exercise, but they have certainly not been released from their imprisonment,” Hall added.
Tawatchai Chaiwat, spokesman for Thailand’s Department of Corrections, told AFP the couple were still in jail as of August 31, 2022, after being sentenced to life in prison.
“Both [of them] are still in jail,” he said. “They were sentenced to life imprisonment.”
According to the prisoner database provided by the department, the couple were still being held at Bang Kwang Central Jail, 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.