Thailand: Investigate Murder of Environmentalist

Impunity in Attacks on Activists

(Bangkok, July 30, 2011) – The Thai government should urgently and thoroughly investigate the murder on July 28, 2011, of Thongnak Sawekchinda, a prominent environmental activist in Samut Sakhon province, Human Rights Watch said today. More than 20 environmentalists and human rights defenders have been killed in Thailand since 2001, and few of those responsible have been held to account.

A gunman riding pillion on a motorcycle shot 47-year-old Thongnak nine times in front of his house in Samut Sakhon province’s Muang district at about 10 a.m. on July 28, witnesses told Human Rights Watch. Thongnak was hit with 9mm bullets in his left shoulder, abdomen, chest, and back, and died shortly after he arrived at a hospital.

“The government does little to recognize the contributions of environmentalists and human rights activists, then does even less after they are mowed down,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai authorities need to get to the bottom of Thongnak’s killing and hold accountable those responsible for the violence that stalks activists.”

Earlier in July, Thongnak filed a complaint with the Muang district police station in Samut Sakhon province that he had received anonymous telephone calls threatening him with death if he continued to protest against the coal industry in the province. Only after his murder did the Samut Sakhon provincial governor finally order police to provide protection to Thongnak’s family and other members of his network.

Over the past five years, Thongnak led villagers in Muang, Ban Phaeo, and Krathum Baen districts in high-profile protests against the persistent problem of air pollution from dust and fumes from coal depots and separation factories. On July 13, he led approximately 1,000 protesters in a demonstration on Rama 2 Road in Samut Sakhon province for several hours, pressing the provincial governor to sign a memorandum of understanding that the coal depots and separation factories cease operating immediately and the Pollution Control Department step in to inspect those business establishments.

On July 22, he led a group of residents in Tha Sai sub-district of the Muang district, who seized a coal truck, allegedly for violating the Samut Sakhon provincial governor’s order banning transportation of coal in and out of the sub-district. Then, on July 26, he testified in an administrative court case against a company that had transported coal into Tha Sai sub-district.

Samut Sakhon province has five authorized coal importers and factories, plus dozens more disguised as ports and warehouses for loading and unloading fishery and agricultural products. Residents contend that these businesses pose a health hazard, but the authorities have permitted the companies to operate without the public hearing and proper environmental assessment in accordance with article 67 of the Thai constitution.

The killing of human rights defenders and other civil society activists has been a serious blot on Thailand’s human rights record, Human Rights Watch said. In line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Thai government should make a commitment to protect people who dedicate themselves to protecting the environment or promoting human rights.

Investigations of these killings have suffered from inconsistent and sometimes shoddy investigatory procedures by the police, the failure to provide adequate protection for witnesses, and the inability to tackle political influence connected to these crimes. Even in serious criminal cases involving the public interest that are referred to the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), those responsible are rarely prosecuted.

In major cases involving murdered environmentalists and human rights defenders, the authorities have failed to find those responsible and hold them accountable. In one such case, a Buddhist monk, Phra Supoj Suwajano, was stabbed to death on June 17, 2005, in connection with his work to protect forests in northern Chiang Mai province from illegal land grabbing. In another case, a Muslim lawyer, Somchai Neelapaijit, was “disappeared” on March 12, 2004, by a group of police officers after he had taken a high-profile role in exposing police torture and other abuses related to counterinsurgency operations in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

“The government’s response to deadly attacks on environmentalists and human rights defenders has long been inadequate,” Adams said. “This has contributed to an environment that emboldens those who consider using murder to get rid of people who stand in their way.”

Only after his murder did the

Only after his murder did the Samut Sakhon provincial governor finally order police to provide protection to Thongnak’s family and other members of his network.

The guy on the motorcycle who killed Thongnak may well have been an off-duty, or on-duty, Royal Thai Policeman.

In major cases involving murdered environmentalists and human rights defenders, the authorities have failed to find those responsible and hold them accountable.

In one such case, a Buddhist monk, Phra Supoj Suwajano, was stabbed to death on June 17, 2005, in connection with his work to protect forests in northern Chiang Mai province from illegal land grabbing.

In another case, a Muslim lawyer, Somchai Neelapaijit, was “disappeared” on March 12, 2004, by a group of police officers after he had taken a high-profile role in exposing police torture and other abuses related to counterinsurgency operations in Thailand’s southern border provinces.

Both of those murders and follow-up non-investigations occurred under Pol Lt Col Thaksin Shinawatra.

It is inconceivable that Pol Lt Col Thaksin Shinawatra of Chiang Mai could not have quickly got to the bottom of both cases had he wanted to, or perhaps not been party to both crimes. Phra Supoj Suwacano was murdered in the Shinawatra home province.

His sister would do well immediately to re-open and get to the bottom of both.

Make that 'both' 'all three'.

Make that 'both' 'all three'. Thongnak's murder is still a fresh outrage and the trail to his murderer still fresh as well. Although the perps in the case of Somchai's disappearance are well-known, and those in the case of Phra Supoj readily discoverable. Just ask your elder brother, Yinglak.

In fact there are at least 10,691 similar assassinations by the Royal Thai Government and or Influential People that need to be resolved. You ought to establish a task-force to investigate and publish ALL the information the Royal Thai Government has on these and all other assassinations and extra-judicial executions, Yinglak. It must be done sometime, and there's no time like the present.

Prachatai has time to day and

Prachatai has time to day and night delete comments revealing their US government funding but no time to disclose in their "About Us" section who funds them to their readership - as is their duty and responsibility.

Forgive me for trying to make aware of Prachatai's funding by repeatedly mentioning it in each and every post on their website - but PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW THE TRUTH.

http://ned.org/where-we-work/asia/thailand

http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/07/anatomy-of-globalist-funded-sedition.html

The breathtaking hypocrisy as Prachatai "heroes" go on at the mouth about fighting for transparency and openness in the Thai government when they themselves obfuscate their funding from their own readership, beg for donations when receiving millions of baht from the US government, block IPs and delete comments of anyone trying to reveal this to its readers - is utterly astounding.

More astounding is that their funding is 100% verified yet Prachatai contributors continue to submit work, associate, and participate in Prachatai's obviously disingenuous agenda. These contributors either are disingenuous themselves or are more committed to their careers & pride rather than the truth and any sort of principle. Associating with people funded by US warmongering corporate fascists DOES reflect back onto you.

I am not the only one calling for transparency from Prachatai - K. Pravit of the Nation as well as Jon Ungpakorn - founder of Prachatai himself have both implored Prachatai to disclose their finances to their readership - they have consistently failed to do so - and instead spend time that could be used updating their "About Us" section to delete comments that run contrary to their talking points.

TC - give it up! You are

TC - give it up! You are becoming a repetitive bore, continually harping again and again on this point! Nobody really cares, and for that matter I don't regard Prachatai's US funding sources, be it the National Endowment for Democracy or the Rockfeller Foundation, as "US warmongering corporate fascists". If Prachatai can get any funding at all from these sources, more power to them! The same goes for getting money from the George Soros Foundation.

Arthurson: Not warmongers?

Arthurson:

Not warmongers? And how did you come to that conclusion? Did you actually do any research regarding these people and their true intentions? Is that what "progressive" means these days - sticking your head in the sand, indifferent to the facts?

Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, Will Marshall, Vin Weber are all Neo-Con warmongering scum who have signed various papers under the Project for a New American Century calling for American global hegemony along side the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, the rabid mad dogs that brought us the Iraq wars 1 and 2, endless war in Afghanistan and the current ongoing war crime in Libya and soon to be in Iran.

http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/07/anatomy-of-globalist-funded-sedition.html

You better wake up - and whether Prachatai's NED funding is "good" or "bad" is beside the point. The fact that they claim to be independent when in reality they are funded by foreign governments and corporate funded foundations is an outright LIE!!! You are not independent when you are funded by a foreign nation's government! If you hide your funding and make such claims you have ZERO credibility.

http://ned.org/where-we-work/asia/thailand

El Salvador: The Truth

El Salvador: The Truth Commission and the Jesuit Massacre

Twenty Salvadoran soldiers await trial in Spain for crimes against humanity perpetrated during the Salvadoran Civil War. The extradition of war criminals to be tried under the Spanish judicial system draws attention to profound weaknesses in Salvadoran trial.....

For years, President Ronald Reagan employed a traditional Cold War platform to reinforce conservative governments, insisting that the leftist insurgency organization, the “Frente Faribundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional” (FMLN), posed a dangerous threat to global democracy. The Jesuit massacre in 1989 forced the international community to recognize the horrendous scores of crimes against humanity that transpired throughout the Salvadoran Civil War...

On November 16, 1989, twenty Salvadoran soldiers murdered six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter... The six priests had advocated peaceful negotiation between the rebels and the government, and Judge Velasco has since held that the Jesuits' promotion of peaceful negotiation between the rebels and the government was likely “the fundamental motive for the killing.”

The points to consider here are two :

1. the right-wing, US-backed Generals in El Salvador are immune to punishment for their crimes, and

2. because there is an extradition treaty between Spain and El Salvador, "Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco recently reopened the case under the universal jurisdiction law, expressing his personal objection regarding the failure to bring the militants and associated death squads to justice."

Can the same be done to the criminals in the Royal Thai Army, Royal Thai Police, and elsewhere in the Royal Thai Government who have been immune to prosecution for so long here in Thailand?

The principle of universal justice surely applies to torture, murder, and disappearance... all routine procedures in Thailand.

What is needed is a country with an extradition treaty with Thailand... and someone within that country of the moral stature of Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco.

Any prospects?