Angkhana Neelaphaijit sent an open letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, urging him to work on the case of her husband’s disappearance, where no progress has been seen during his one year in office. She also called attention to the disappearance of an important witness and the safety of the witness’s family.
In the letter, dated 23 Dec, which was also addressed to the Minister of Justice and the Director-General of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Angkhana referred to Abhisit’s pledge to the public upon receiving the premiership a year ago that he would set up a special working group for important cases which had allegedly been ignored by previous governments.
One of those was the case of lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, who was disappeared in 2004.
The case, which was adopted by the DSI in July 2005, has made no progress, while major witnesses and their families have been under serious threat, Angkhana said.
Angkhana demanded that the PM, as the superior authority of the DSI, accelerate investigation of the case. During their four years in charge of the case, the DSI has only attempted to search for evidence in the Mae Klong River in Ratchaburi Province, where it found four 200-litre oil drums which were believed to be involved with the destruction of Somchai’s body, and pieces of human bones whose DNA was, however, found not to match that of Somchai.
She raised concerns for a more efficient witness protection programme as witnesses and their families had been threatened and could not live normal lives. The disappearance of her husband involved high-level police officers accused of torturing suspects in the theft of military weapons on 4 Jan 2004, which has been under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).
One of the witnesses, Abdullah Abucari, who had been under the DSI’s witness protection programme, returned to his home in one of the southern border provinces on the occasion of an important religious date in late November, and disappeared on 11 Dec.
Angkhana asked the DSI to take responsibility for his disappearance, and urgently investigate the case.
She also asked the government to criminalize enforced and involuntary disappearances, and to sign and ratify the UN Convention Against Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances.
The disappearance of Somchai has severely shaken confidence in Thailand’s justice system and rule of law, especially in the eyes of people in the southern border provinces. Although the government has been successful in providing redress and development, it has failed to deliver justice and equality in law, she said.