Wife pushes Thai authorities to investigate missing Karen activist husband

Wife pushes Thai authorities to investigate missing Karen activist husband

A wife of a Karen human rights defender who have disappeared since last year requested the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to investigate the disappearance of her husband as influential people are suspected in the case.

Phinnapha Phrueksaphan, a wife of Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, aka Billy, a Karen human and community rights activist, who disappeared on 17 April 2014, on Thursday 10 am, 6 August 2015, submitted a letter to the DSI to request the agency to take up the case.

Phinnapha reasoned that the case should be handled by the DSI because many influential people are allegedly involved in the disappearance of her husband.

Pol Maj Woranan Srilam, the Director of the DSI’s special case division, accepted the case and said that the DSI puts priority on the case. However, the department needs to cooperate with the interrogation officers to finalise if the case could be categorised as special cases.

He added that the department will investigate on the effectiveness of the investigative officers who handle the case and if there are influential people involved in the disappearance of Billy as claimed.

In April, the Provincial Court of the western province of Phetchaburi accepted an appeal to hold an emergency trial under Article 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code to investigate the alleged unlawful detention of Billy after Appeal Court dismissed the request a month earlier.

On the day of his disappearance, Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, Superintendent of Kaeng Krachan National Park Office in western Phetchaburi Province, and four other park officials arrested and detained Billy for allegedly possessing illegal wild bee honeycomb and six bottles of honey.

In February, the five testified to the court that they have nothing to do with his disappearance.

While requesting an appeal for an emergency trial, Phinnapha pointed out that since Billy and Chaiwat were in dispute because in 2011 Billy assisted Karen villagers to file a lawsuit against Chaiwat in the Administrative Court for allegedly evicting and burning the houses of Karen villagers, park officials might be involved the unlawful detention of Billy and his subsequent disappearance.

She added that all the witnesses who have already testified on the case might be biased because they were working under Chaiwat, and pressed the court has to establish the facts of the case as soon as possible.

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

In addition to the appeal, Phinnapha submitted a petition to the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), to urge the Commission to accelerate its investigation into the park officials who witnessed the unlawful detention of Billy.

Since last years, many civil society organisations, such as Amnesty International, Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), have been campaigning to put pressure on the Thai authorities over Billy’s case.

Currently, Thailand does not have a law which lay out criminal offences on cases involving enforced disappearance. In has signed the Convention Against Enforced Disappearance in 2012, but has not ratified the convention. Therefore, it has no legal obligation to the convention.

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