Civil society organisation pressures police to find missing Karen activist

A civil society organisation has urged police to step up measures to investigate the disappearance of a Karen human rights defender, pointing out that the case is being neglected.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), a civil society organisation which promotes and monitors human rights in Thailand, on Wednesday submitted a letter to Police Region 7 in order to urge the police to step up efforts in investigating the disappearance of Pollachi Rakchongcharoen, aka Billy, a Karen human rights activist who disappeared on 17 April 2014.

In the letter, the organisation stated that the investigation has been neglected, resulting in delay and a lack of progress in the case. Moreover, the police should communicate regularly with the family of the victim regarding the case.

CrCF pointed out that the investigation into Billy’s disappearance might have been hindered by local interest groups, intimidated witnesses, and the geographical features of the tropical forest where he was last seen.

Currently, although Thailand does not have a law which lays out criminal charges for enforced disappearance, Thailand ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED) in 2012 and is obligated to prevent enforced disappearance and to realise that enforced disappearance is against human rights, added CrCF.

Despite its poor record on human rights, the Thai junta may pass a bill to prevent and suppress enforced disappearance and torture this year. Praised by the networks of enforced disappearance victims and human rights activists, the bill closely follows the standard of international laws on the issue. The bill, however, will be subjected to changes by the junta-appointed lawmakers before it is enacted.

Billy was last seen on 17 May 2014 after Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, the head of Kaeng Krachan National Park in western Phetchaburi province, and four other park officers arrested and unlawfully detained Billy for illegally possessing wild bee honeycomb and six bottles of honey

Shortly after his disappearance, Pinnapha Phrueksaphan, Billy’s wife, requested the court to hold an emergency trial under Article 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code to investigate the alleged unlawful detention of Billy. However, the Court of First Instance ruled that evidence of the unlawful detention of Billy was insufficient. The Appeal Court confirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance in turning down the urgent trial request in early March, citing the lack of evidence.

Phinnapha has also submitted a petition to the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), to urge the Commission to accelerate its investigation into the alleged involvement of the park officers in Billy’s disappearance.  

On 29 January, the police filed charges under Article 157 of the Criminal Code (malfeasance in office) against Chaiwat and four other park officers for the alleged unlawful detention of Billy before his disappearance.        

In 2011, Billy assisted Karen villagers in filing a lawsuit against Chaiwat at the Administrative Court. He accused the park chief of forcefully evicting and burning the houses of ethnic Karen villagers in Pong Luk Bang Kloy in Phetchaburi.

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