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Five years after the allegations were first made, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has taken up charges against a former Superintendent of a National Park in western Thailand for allegedly evicting Karen villagers and setting fire to their village.

Surapong Kongchantuk, Chairman of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's Human Rights Subcommittee on Ethnic Minorities, on Wednesday, 12 January 2016, said that Pol Col Chalit Katesrimek, Head of Kaeng Krachan Police Station, sent a case file on corruption and malfeasance charges against Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, former Superintendent of Kaeng Krachan National Park, to the Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

According to the authorities, the PACC has accepted the case.

Chaiwat was accused under Article 157 of the Criminal Code, malfeasance in office, for forcibly evicting and burning the houses of ethnic Karen villagers in Pong Luk Bang Kloy in Phetchaburi in May 2011.

According to Koi Meemi, a Karen leader of Pong Luk Bang Kloy who filed charges against him, Chaiwat and armed park officials in May 2011 came to his village to evict Karen villagers from the park area before setting their houses on fire.

He added that the park officers ordered him to leave his house immediately during the eviction. When he said that he could not do so because he is blind and has nowhere to go, the armed park officers forcefully detained him and put him in a helicopter.

Koi said that he was only later informed by his family that his house and many of his belongings were destroyed by fire.

In addition to the malfeasance charges, Chaiwat might face charges under Articles 217 and 218 of the Criminal Code on arson attacks.

If found guilty under Articles 217 and 218 alone, he could be handed a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or even death.

In addition to the allegations of setting fire to the Karen village in Kaeng Krachan National Park, Chaiwat is also a prime suspect of the enforced disappearance of Porlajee Rakchongcharoen (aka Billy), 30, a Karen human and community rights activist.

Billy has been missing since 17 May 2014. He was arrested and unlawfully detained by Chaiwat regarding a wild bee honeycomb and six bottles of honey allegedly found in his possession before he disappeared.

The Karen activist’s disappearance came three years after he assisted Karen villagers of Pong Luk Bang Kloy to file a lawsuit against Chaiwat in the Administrative Court.

Shortly after his disappearance, Pinnapha Phrueksapan, Billy’s wife, requested the court to hold an emergency trial under Article 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code to investigate his alleged unlawful detention. However, the Court of First Instance later ruled that evidence of the unlawful detention of Billy was insufficient.

Investigation officers of the Royal Thai Police Region 7 in early 2015 also 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.

The case is also under investigation by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). However, no progress has been made on the case since last year.

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