The bodies of 23-year-old Hanna Witheridge and 24-year-old David Miller were discovered in September 2014 on a beach on Koh Tao, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand.
They were partially undressed and had sustained severe head injuries. Witheridge had been raped.
Two Burmese men, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo — also known as Win Zaw Htun — were arrested almost two weeks after the bodies were found. In 2015, they were both found guilty and sentenced to death. Now, they will instead face life imprisonment, said Nakhon Chompuchat, the two men’s defense lawyer.
On Friday, the Thai king passed a mass royal pardon for those on death row who have exhausted all appeal options and have never before received a royal pardon.
“This time will be their first time. So for this time, they are entitled to receive it,” said Chompuchat. “They are no longer in the execution queue.”
The royal pardon was created in the spirit of the king’s birthday, to offer convicted prisoners the opportunity to “reverse their behavior and become good citizens,” says the text of the law.
High profile case
The two men, from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, were working in the hospitality industry on the island at the time of the killings. After their arrest, they confessed but later recanted, saying their admissions of guilt were made under duress.
The murders on the popular dive island of Koh Tao drew intense media attention from across the world. Defense lawyers for the two men later alleged that police had rushed the investigation to preserve Thailand’s image as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
The defense argued that the investigation was flawed due to “alleged mishandling of forensic evidence, abuse of suspects and intimidation of witnesses,” according to a previous statement issued by the Migrant Worker Rights Network, a rights group assisting the defense team.
Thai police said forensic evidence, including DNA samples from cigarette butts found near the bodies, tied the men to the scene.
The first appeal upheld the guilty verdict in 2017. The case was appealed again, leading the Supreme Court to uphold the verdict and death sentence. The Supreme Court ruled that the forensic evidence was “clear, credible, and detailed,” and refuted suggestions that the police had mishandled the case.
In 2018, Thailand lifted a de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, executing a man by lethal injection in the country’s first execution since August 2009, rights groups said.
Rubio calls Biden’s national security team ‘polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline’
In recent days Biden has announced plans to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of State and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — jobs whose occupants require Senate confirmation. The president-elect has also named Jake Sullivan as his national security adviser, a White House role on which the Senate has no say.
Blinken, Thomas-Greenfield and Sullivan join a handful of other high-profile nominees — former Secretary of State John Kerry among them — who have thus far been light on surprises and heavy on experienced hands and veterans of the Obama administration. Biden has not yet announced his pick for Defense secretary, a centerpiece of the national security apparatus, despite widespread speculation that the job would go to Michèle Flournoy.
Rubio ran for president in 2016 and remains one of the GOP’s highest-profile lawmakers. The Florida senator, a child of Cuban immigrants, has been especially vocal on issues related to foreign policy, and his concern about the U.S. relationship with China dovetails with one of the Trump administration’s basic international relations tenets.
Biden has vowed to counter China’s growing influence on the world stage while breaking from President Donald Trump’s unconventional approach to foreign affairs — especially with regard to the United States’ traditional allies, whom Trump at times has alienated and cajoled.
But the president-elect has to walk a fine line with his choices for administration posts that need Senate approval given the razor-thin margins in the chamber and the likelihood that nominees will need to garner Republican support to win confirmation. Some Republican senators have recently indicated a willingness to sign off on Biden’s Cabinet selections — while warning they will sink nominees they believe to be out of the political mainstream — potentially defusing what would be an early standoff in Biden’s presidency.
The Finance Watchdog Says There’s “Evidence” Neither Ministers Or Businesses Are “Fully Prepared” For Brexit
3 min read
The Office for Budget Responsibility has warned there is “evidence” that ministers and businesses are not prepared for “imminent changes” to the economy from Brexit.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has come under fire for failing to mention the potential impact of Brexit on the nation’s finances during the spending review, despite the OBR warning a no-deal outcome was a “material risk”.
The watchdog, which modelled a 11.3% contraction of the economy, said the figures were based on a presumption that ministers would strike a free trade deal with Brussels ahead of the 31 December deadline.
But it said the “unresolved nature” of the talks meant that “other outcomes are possible, including that no agreement is reached and the UK defaults to trading with the EU on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms from 1 January 2021.”
The finance watchdog concluded that under that scenario the UK’s GDP would be reduced by a further 2% in 2021, “due to various temporary disruptions to cross-border trade and the knock-on impacts”.
It added: “As these abate, the longer-term effects of lower trade instensity continue to build such that output is 1.5% lower than our central forecast after five years, and 2% lower in the long run…”
The analysis also found that a no-deal scenario would see borrowing likely rise by a further 0.5% of GDP from 2021-22.
And under its worst case scenario, which would also see vaccines failing to control the pandemic, the OBR predicted the additional impacts of a no-deal would lead to national debt reaching 126.3% of GDP by 2025-26.
“The degree of near-term disruption to economic activity associated with defaulting to WTO terms depend in part upon the preparedness of the Government and businesses to manage any additional administrative, regulatory, and customs requirements,” the report said.
“While both have had more time to prepare than when we last considered these issues in our [earlier report], they have also been distracted by the need to deal with the disruption caused by the virus.
“This is likely to have taken up personnel and resources at some businesses that would have otherwise been used to prepare for a no deal Brexit, while also running down cash reserves and inventories making them more vulnerable to shocks,” it went on.
Meanwhile, pointing to work carried out by business groups, the OBR said there was “evidence” that ministers and businesses were still not prepared for Brexit related disruption, even if a deal is signed.
The watchdog added: “We continue to assume that the UK and EU conclude a free-trade agreement (FTA) and that there is a smooth transition to the new trading relationship after the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. However, there is evidence that neither the government nor businesses are fully prepared for the imminent changes even if a deal is agreed.”
Hitting out at Mr Sunak’s failure to address Brexit during his economic update, shadow chancellor Anneliesse Dodds, said: “In less than 40 days, we’re due to leave the transition period. Yet the chancellor didn’t even mention that in his speech.
“There’s still no trade deal. So does the chancellor truly believe that his government is prepared and that he’s done enough to help those businesses that will be heavily affected?”
Diego Maradona: Argentina legend dies aged 60
Football legend Diego Maradona, one of the greatest players of all time, has died at the age of 60.
The former Argentina attacking midfielder and manager suffered a heart attack at his Buenos Aires home.
He had successful surgery on a brain blood clot earlier in November and was to be treated for alcohol dependency.
Maradona was captain when Argentina won the 1986 World Cup, scoring the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the quarter-finals.
Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi paid tribute to Maradona, saying he was “eternal”.
“A very sad day for all Argentines and football,” said Messi. “He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal.
“I keep all the beautiful moments lived with him and I send my condolences to all his family and friends.”
In a statement on social media, the Argentine Football Association expressed “its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend”, adding: “You will always be in our hearts.”
Declaring three days of national mourning, Alberto Fernandez, the president of Argentina, said: “You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of them all.
“Thank you for having existed, Diego. We’re going to miss you all our lives.”
Maradona played for Barcelona and Napoli during his club career, winning two Serie A titles with the Italian side. He started his career with Argentinos Juniors, also playing for Sevilla, and Boca Juniors and Newell’s Old Boys in his homeland.
He scored 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina, representing them in four World Cups.
Maradona led his country to the 1990 final in Italy, where they were beaten by West Germany, before captaining them again in the United States in 1994, but was sent home after failing a drugs test for ephedrine.
During the second half of his career, Maradona struggled with cocaine addiction and was banned for 15 months after testing positive for the drug in 1991.
He retired from professional football in 1997, on his 37th birthday, during his second stint at Argentine giants Boca Juniors.
Having briefly managed two sides in Argentina during his playing career, Maradona was appointed head coach of the national team in 2008 and left after the 2010 World Cup, where his side were beaten by Germany in the quarter-finals.
He subsequently managed teams in the United Arab Emirates and Mexico and was in charge of Gimnasia y Esgrima in Argentina’s top flight at the time of his death.
World pays tribute
Brazil legend Pele led tributes to Maradona, writing on Twitter: “What sad news. I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend. There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to family members. One day, I hope we can play ball together in the sky.”
Former England striker and Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, who was part of the England team beaten by Argentina at the 1986 World Cup, said Maradona was “by some distance, the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time”.
Ex-Tottenham and Argentina midfielder Ossie Ardiles said: “Thank dear Dieguito for your friendship, for your football, sublime, without comparison. Simply, the best football player in the history of football. So many enjoyable moments together. Impossible to say which one was the best. RIP my dear friend.”
Juventus and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo said: “Today I bid farewell to a friend and the world bids farewell to an eternal genius. One of the best of all time. An unparalleled magician. He leaves too soon, but leaves a legacy without limits and a void that will never be filled. Rest in peace, ace. You will never be forgotten.”
Boca Juniors, where Maradona enjoyed two spells and finished his career, gave “eternal thanks” to their former player.
Paris St-Germain and Brazil forward Neymar posted a photo of him as a youngster with Maradona, calling the Argentine a “legend of football”.
England captain Harry Kane and forward Marcus Rashford also paid tribute.
Barcelona was the first club outside of Argentina that Maradona played for. He scored 22 goals in 36 appearances between 1982 and 1984.
Another of Maradona’s former clubs, Napoli, paid tribute. He played for the club between 1984 and 1991, making 188 appearances.
‘It was in football he found his peace’ – analysis
South American football writer Tim Vickery
He was an everyman Argentine, who lived out a national fantasy with the way he scored his two goals in that 1986 quarter-final win over England.
Scoring those goals, against that opponent, turned Maradona almost into a deity in the eyes of some of his compatriots – with disastrous consequences. Living the aftermath was not easy.
Without the discipline of football, the second half of his life was a chaotic affair.
But it was in football that he seemed to find his peace. As a fan he would turn up at the stadium of his beloved Boca Juniors, take off his shirt, swirl it around his head and lead the chanting.
For many his spontaneity and fallibility were part of the appeal.
His admirers thrived on the way he would fall down only to get back up again. It humanised a figure whose epic life was as mazy as one of his left-footed dribbles.
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