Thai government should expedite investigation into disappearance of Karen human rights defender: OHCHR

(BANGKOK,  16  APRIL  2015)  -  The  United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia  (OHCHR) reiterated concerns about the lack of progress in
the   investigation   on   the   enforced  disappearance  of  Mr.  Pholachi Rakchongcharoen  (also  known  as  Billy),  a  prominent Karen human rights
defender.

Tomorrow,  17  April,  will mark one year since the disappearance of Billy, who  had  been defending the rights of Karen community in the Kaeng Krachan
National Park in central Thailand.

Billy  was  last  sighted  on  his  way  back from a meeting with community representatives  to  discuss  a lawsuit concerning the burning of homes and properties  of  Karen villagers by Kaeng Krachan National Park officials in 2010 and 2011. Billy’s fate and whereabouts have been unknown since then.

The  UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has been  closely monitoring the case. As of today, the information provided by
the  Government is insufficient to clarify the fate or whereabouts of Billy and the case remains under the review of the Working Group.

According   to   credible  and  reliable  sources,  new  reports  from  the investigation  suggest  that  Billy  was not released from official custody after  he  was  arrested  for  illegal possession of wild honey. This is in contradiction  with  the previous claim by the former chief of the National Park that Billy was only briefly detained.

In light of this new development, OHCHR urges the Royal Thai Government, as a  signatory  to  the  International  Convention  for the Protection of All
Persons  from  Enforced Disappearance, to allocate sufficient resources and strengthen   its   efforts   to   undertake   a  transparent  and  thorough investigation  into  this  case.  In this regard, the Royal Thai Government should take measures to ensure that witnesses involved in the investigation
are  protected  against  intimidation,  harassment and reprisal. OHCHR also encourages  the  Royal  Thai  Government  to provide Billy’s family and the
WGEID with an update on the most recent findings.

Billy’s   disappearance  has  intimidated  other  human  rights  defenders, especially  those  working  on  land and community rights, as well as those
defending  rights of ethnic minorities across the country. It is imperative for  the  Royal  Thai Government to provide the maximum protection to these
individuals  and groups to allow them to safely carry out their activities.

 

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