The Phatthalung Juvenile and Family Court also sentenced a third defendant, a girl under the age of 18, to four months in jail, suspended for three years, and placed her under probation for two years.
Four adult defendants aged 19 and 20, three men and a woman, are being tried separately from the minors.
According to the juvenile court’s ruling, the female defendant lured a young couple, Phasakorn Khongsawat and his girlfriend, both 19, to a meeting with the first and second defendants, who are both 17, along with two men aged 19 and 18, at Baan Khao Khram in Sri Nakharin district at 4am on Jan 27.
The four men, who were under the influence of kratom leaves, assaulted Mr Phasakorn and used a pistol to force the couple to go into a forest about 7 kilometres from the nearest village. They gang-raped the woman who was three months’ pregnant.
The gang dug a shallow pit. They forced Mr Phasakorn and his girlfriend to sit on the pit’s edge. Nopporn Thong-iad, 19, shot him in the head and stabbed him. The gang forced Mr Phasakorn’s girlfriend to get into the pit but she begged them to spare her life.
Then the first defendant fired a second shot at Mr Phasakorn before he and the second defendant buried the man.
The second defendant then detained the woman victim at his home until Jan 30.
The teenagers later drove the woman in a pickup truck to a secluded area in the mountains adjoining Phatthalung and Trang province, where they bludgeoned and stabbed her until she lost consciousness.
The gang dumped her into a ravine, believing she was dead, but the woman survived and was rescued and taken to hospital by good Samaritans.
Police said the motive for the crime stemmed from a personal feud between Nopporn, the alleged gang leader, and Mr Phasakorn.
The 17-year-olds were sentenced on numerous charges including concealment of a body, rape involving the use of a weapon, premeditated murder, compelling others to do something by using weapons, holding others against their will, carrying weapons to public venues and violating a law controlling firearms and ammunition.
Courts of Justice spokesman Suebpong Sripongkul said the offences committed by the 17-year-olds carry a maximum penalty of death. But offenders under 18 are not subject to punishment by death or life imprisonment under the law.
Mr Suebpong said when a person under 18 commits a crime for which the penalty is death or life imprisonment, the law requires the penalty to be converted to a maximum of 50 years in prison.
In this high-profile murder and rape case, he explained, the defendants committed the offences when they were older than 15 but under 18, so the sentences were reduced by half, according to law.
The prison term was also reduced because they had given useful testimony.
“This shows the court has given the young defendants the maximum penalty stipulated by law,” Mr Suebpong said.
The girl was found guilty of compelling others to do something by using weapons, holding others against their will and supporting others to rape a person.
Nopporn sparked public outrage after a video showed him laughing and giggling as he was interviewed by the media at a police briefing in Phatthalung. The woman victim was his ex-girlfriend.
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