Thai court websites hacked over Myanmar death sentences

Cyber attack second this month by int’l hackers group denouncing ‘biased’ verdict against Myanmar workers found guilty of murdering two British nationals

By Max Constant

BANGKOK – International hackers group Anonymous has announced the hijacking of hundreds of Thai court websites in a campaign to denounce what it called a “biased” verdict against two Myanmar migrant workers sentenced to death for murdering two British nationals.

Early on Wednesday, a post on the group’s Facebook page said “#Anonymous shuts down all Thai court of Justice websites in protest over the #KohTao murder verdict.”

The attack was the second organized by the group to condemn the Dec. 24 death sentences given to Wai Pyo and Zaw Lin, both of whom turned 23 in custody, for the murder of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in Sept. 2014.

The group expressed its support Wednesday for a campaign calling on tourists to boycott Thailand “until such time changes are made with the way Thai police handle investigation involving foreign tourists.”

The post was accompanied by a black image carrying the emblematic Anonymous mask and the words “Failed Law. We want Justice! #BoycottThailand”, as well as a graphic of Thailand’s flag adorned with a hand flashing the middle finger.

A list of 305 websites of Thai courts and some government offices was attached to the post.

On Wednesday evening, a random check revealed that many of the websites were down.

The cyber attack came after the Jan. 5 hijacking of 14 Thai police websites, which were shut down for several hours, displaying only a black screen similar to the one posted on the group’s Facebook page Wednesday.

After the first incident, police spokesperson General Dechnarong Suticharnbancha had said that the hackers would be tracked down by the force’s technology crime suppression division.

“Even if the source of the attack was from abroad, they will be convicted eventually. It is not a problem. Thai police are excellent,” he stressed.

On Jan. 3, Anonymous posted a 37-minute video on its YouTube account, detailing its criticism of the police investigation and the judicial process in the Koh Tao murder trial.

It had also posted a statement on its Facebook page that same day saying “information and evidence does not lead Anonymous into believing that police have the correct culprits for this crime.”

Wai Pyo and Zaw Lin were arrested by Thai police on the island of Koh Tao in Oct. 2014 and accused of killing Miller and Witheridge, two weeks after the crime.

They initially confessed, but then recanted their confessions saying they had been tortured while under detention.

The Thai police investigation has been widely criticized for its lack of professionalism.

The crime scene was not sealed off, hindering the collection of evidence, and Pornthip Rojanasunan, director of the Forensic science institute, a government agency under the ministry of justice, testified during the trial that the collection of DNA samples was done incompletely.

Crucially, she reported that DNA collected on the alleged murder weapon, a hoe, also did not match the DNA of any of the two accused.

The two migrant workers were convicted on Dec. 24 on the basis of a single page DNA analysis bearing handwritten alterations, provided by the police.

The sentencing provoked uproar in neighboring Myanmar, where demonstrations took place near its border with Thailand and in front of the Thai embassy in Yangon.

Laura Witheridge, the sister of the murdered female tourist, strongly criticized the Thai police on her Facebook page Sunday, describing the investigation as “bungled” and alleging that “the vast majority of Thai police are corrupt”.

She also claimed that she had received death threats and that her family had been offered money to keep quiet after the murders – allegations denied by Thai authorities.

She attached a link to the Anonymous video to her post.