Friday 24 September 2010, 9.30 am. The Criminal Court is scheduled to read the verdict of Somchai Neelapaijit reached by the Appeal Court.
After seven months of court hearings into the disappearance of Mr. Somchai from August 2005 onward on the offences regarding coercion and robber, the Bangkok Criminal Court read out the verdict in Black Case no. 1952/2547 and Red Case no. Or 4/2549 on 12 January 2006. In sum, the Court holds that:
"...After reviewing all the evidence, and considering that the prosecution witnesses including inquiry officials had given consistent accounts regarding the time and the place, the Court was undoubtedly convinced that Mr. Somchai had disappeared. As per the phone logs showing the use of mobile phones among the five defendants who contacted each other several times from different locations during the days before the incidence and on the day the disappearance took place, the Court still casts some suspicion over the phone logs. As the plaintiffs have failed to bring to court the Deputy Commissioner-General and Deputy Commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, who the plaintiffs claimed had helped to obtain the phone logging ..."
"...The undisputed facts, therefore, have been established without a doubt that on the date and at the time and place as indicated in the indictment, Accused No.1 and other 3 to 5 persons jointly captured Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit into the car prepared by Accused No.1 et al without consent of Mr.Somchai Neelapaijit and drove the car away..."
"...It is therefore adjudicated that Accused No.1 is guilty under Section 309 paragraph one, Section 391 of the Penal Code. The act of Accused No.1 is the same act punishable by several provisions, Accused No.1 is thus punished under Section 309 paragraph one of the Penal Code which is the severest punishment pursuant to Section 90 of the Penal Code. Accused No. 1 is therefore sentenced for 3 years imprisonment. Other requests as well as indictments against Accused No. 2 to Accused No. 5 are dismissed..."
Failure of state mechanisms to uphold justice
It seemed at the time as if the government led by PM Pol.Lt.Col. Thaksin Shinawatra was endeavoring to solve the case of the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit. And though PM Thaksin and high ranking police officials in charge of the investigation in this case told the press that major evidence had been found, useful for identifying the perpetrators, later testimonies and evidence including forensic evidence submitted to the Court had failed to hold perpetrators liable to the charges.
6 years and 6 months past had showed obvious discomfort toward solving the disappearance case of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit while interference by politicians continued. According to the DSI Establishment Act, the DSI is an independent agency and its inquiry officials are fully authorized to address grievances faced by people as a result of abuse and misuse of power by state officials and influential people. However, thus far, the DSI has failed to effectively investigation of Somchai Neelapaijit disappearance and they have simply failed to fulfill public expectations.
Investigations by the National Anti-Corruption Commission -NACC on this case have been extraordinarily slow compared to other cases taken on by NACC. The delay in the action of NACC greatly compromises the safety of all witnesses involved in the case.
Meanwhile, Mr. Abdulah Arbukaree, another important witness in this case who had been living under the DSI witness protection scheme, disappeared from his residence in Narathiwat on 11 December 2009, after he came back from a visit to his family during the religious festival. His whereabouts are still unknown and the DSI, which is in charge of the protection given to Mr. Abdulah as a witness, has not shown any responsibility toward the case.
While another witness Mr. Suderueman Malae are now being charged with making a false statement of torture to NACC by Pol. Maj. Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda. The plaintiffs filed the complaint with the Bangkok Criminal Court which is now in the process of calling for evidence. At the same time, the plaintiffs have requested to obtain access to the investigation report from the NACC which they have not yet made available.
Apart from the disappearance of a major witness, Pol. Major Ngern Thongsuk, Defendant 1, also went missing on 19 September 2008, according to media reports.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.