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Fears over evidence in British backpacker murders

Lawyers for two men charged with the murder of British backpackers on the Thai island of Koh Tao are "deeply concerned" that key forensic evidence will not be re-examined before the trial.

Hannah Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, and David Miller, 24, from Jersey, were killed in Thailand last September.

Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were discovered on a beach on Koh Tao. Credit: PA Wire

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21-year-old bar workers from Burma, are set to stand trial on July 8 on charges of murder and rape.

Their defence lawyers have asked for forensic evidence gathered by Thai police to be sent to independent experts, but the judge in the case said that he will not rule on the matter until the first day of the trial.

Lead lawyer Nakhon Chomphuchat told the BBC: "I am now deeply concerned at this developing situation. Without re-examination of this evidence ... the ability of the two defendants to defend themselves against the serious crimes they are charged of will be seriously impeded."

US calls for urgent action on south-east Asian migrants

An abandoned migrant boat Credit: REUTERS/Beawiharta

American authorities have said that the thousands of migrants adrift in Southeast Asian seas are in need of urgent rescue, as countries gathered in Bangkok to discuss a crisis that's overwhelming the region.

"We have to save lives urgently," US Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard told reporters on her way into the meeting.

Thousands of migrants are adrift, abandoned by traffickers on overcrowded boats after a Thai crackdown made it too risky for them to continue using trafficking routes through Thailand.

The US has asked Thailand to fly surveillance flights from Thai bases to identify boats carrying migrants, Richard said, but has yet to get the nod from Thai authorities.

She added America is operating similar flights from Malaysia.

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Malaysia in talks to relieve worsening refugee crisis

Malaysia has launched a series of high-level talks with its neighbours to seek a solution to the deepening refugee crisis in the region.

Up to 8,000 migrants are believed to be at sea Credit: Reuters

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees believes there are up to 8,000 migrants on "boats in the Andaman Sea" trying to reach land.

Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman met with his counterpart from Bangladesh ahead of meetings with the Indonesian and Thai foreign ministers in the coming week.

Malaysia is the current chair of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has been criticised for long ignoring the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Burma.

Myanmar: We are not to blame for migrant crisis

Migrants are seen aboard a boat tethered to a Thai navy vessel today. Credit: Reuters

Myanmar has said it is not to blame for the escalating migrant crisis in the Andaman Sea.

More than 2,000 migrants have arrived in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in recent weeks, with thousands more believed to be currently adrift at sea after tougher action on human traffickers led some captains and smugglers to abandon their boats.

While some are Bangladeshi economic migrants, many of those aboard the boats are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

However, Major Zaw Htay, director of the office of the country's president, told the Associated Press: "We will not accept the allegations by some that Myanmar is the source of the problem."

He also said that Myanmar's government would not attend a meeting called by Thailand on the crisis "if 'Rohingya' is mentioned on the invitation", accusing governments of trying to divert attention from their own human smuggling and slavery problems by blaming his country.

United Nations: '8,000 people on boats in Andaman Sea'

An official for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said that up to 8,000 people are on "boats in the Andaman Sea".

UNHCR official Jeffrey Savage said: "We understand there as many as 8,000 or more we don't really know who are still on boats out in the Andaman Sea.

"UNHCR has called on the international community particularly the countries in the region to undertake a massive search search and rescue operation to bring those people to shore, give them the same kind of assistance and humanitarian supports that we giving in this groups."

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Migrant boat towed out to sea by Thai Navy

A boat full of migrants has been towed out to sea towards Indonesia and away from its southern islands in the Andaman Sea by the the Thai navy, a witness said. The boat was being towed southwest by Thai navy patrol boat number 911, the witness told Reuters.

Migrant boat towed out to sea by Thai Navy. Credit: Google Maps

The navy was unable to confirm if the boat was the same one it towed out of Thai waters on Friday. Thousands of migrants are adrift in Southeast Asian waters, abandoned by people smugglers in the Andaman Sea following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking.

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