The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has initiated an investigation into the recent killing of a Lahu activist after the incident raised great concern among both international and domestic human rights organisations.
On 21 March 2016, National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit stated
that the NHRC will collect reports and documents related to the recent summary killing of Chaiyaphum Pasae, She said that the incident has made her lose faith in the Thai justice system, especially in its treatment of ethnic minorities.
Angkhana also urged police officers to put Pongsanai Saengtala, a Lahu villager arrested at the scene when Chaiyaphum was killed, into a witness protection programme. She added that officers should not treat Pongsanai as a suspect since he is the only civilian witness of this case.
Apart from the NHRC, the junta has also responded to the killing. On the same day, junta head Prayut Chan-ocha told the media that he had already urged an investigation. But as far as he knows, the late activist possessed drugs and attempted to injure officials with a grenade so they had to kill him in self-defence.
“This case has to be verified and based on witness testimony and evidence. Don’t just think that he was executed just because he is an ethnic activist. Because the government never thinks like that,” said the junta leader.
Chaiyaphum was a 17-year-old activist fighting for the rights of stateless persons. He participated in many events to promote the rights of ethnic minorities in Northern Thailand. He was also awarded a prize at the 16th Thai Short Film and Video Festival for a short film ‘A Comb and A Buckle
’ and several of his short documentaries were broadcast on Thai PBS.
Chaiyaphum was killed on 17 March at a checkpoint in Mueang Na Subdistrict of Chiang Dao District in Chiang Mai Province. Soldiers at the checkpoint claimed that they found a quantity of amphetamines in the car Chaiyaphum was riding in and that he resisted arrest by pulling out a knife before running into a bush with a bomb in his hand. The authorities therefore had no choice but to shoot him dead.
“Ethnic minorities in Thailand will never have full equality so long as those acting on their behalf face grave risks every day and killings such as this are not investigated pr