Thailand: 6 months on, where is Karen activist ‘Billy’? Last seen with local officials

Six months after activist Pholachi Rakchongcharoen, also known as “Billy”, is believed to have been the victim of enforced disappearance in Kaengkrachan National Park, western Thailand, Amnesty International renews calls on authorities to establish the truth about his fate and whereabouts as a matter of urgency.
 
The organization also urges authorities to ensure all necessary measures are taken to ensure anyone suspected of responsibility for his suspected enforced disappearance is brought to justice.
 
It is feared that Billy, 30, a Karen community and environmental rights activist with five young children, may have been forcibly disappeared in connection with his attempts to hold authorities to account for human rights violations against ethnic Karen residing in Kaengkrachan National Park, Thailand’s largest national park.
 
Enforced disappearance is a multifaceted human rights violation and a crime under international law, victimising both the person who is forcibly disappeared and his or her family, who are left agonising over their loved one’s fate. Enforced disappearance cannot be justified under any circumstances.
 
Billy was last seen on 17 April 2014 when he was detained by the chief of Kaengkrachan National Park and three park officials. At the time of his suspected enforced disappearance, Billy was travelling from his village to meet with ethnic Karen villagers about their forced eviction and burning of their properties, in preparation for a lawsuit which named the national park chief as a defendant. He was carrying documents related to the case, about which he had been planning to submit a petition to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s monarch.
 
In October, police officials announced the discovery of as yet unidentified bloodstains, which initial tests have shown to be male, in a car belonging to national park officials.
 
The national park chief alleged Billy had been arrested and was released on the same day after being questioned for possession of wild bee honey, but there are no official records of his arrest or detention.
 
Billy’s case highlights the vulnerability of community rights activists to human rights violations in an attempt to undermine their peaceful activities to protect their communities. Amnesty International further urges authorities in Thailand to fulfil their obligation to break the cycle of impunity in Thailand for attacks on human rights defenders, and to protect environmental rights and those who defend them.