Provincial court accepts appeal to find missing Karen activist

Phetchaburi Provincial Court accepted an appeal to hold an emergency trial to find a missing a Karen human rights activist who disappeared in April 2014.

The Provincial Court on Tuesday accepted the appeal to hold an emergency trial under Article 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code to investigate the alleged unlawful detention of Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, aka Billy, a Karen human and community rights activist, who disappeared on 17 April 2014.

The appeal request was submitted by Phinnapha Phrueksaphan, Billy’s wife.

Last month, the Appeal Court dismissed the request to hold an emergency trial to find Billy, reasoning that the evidence which could prove that Billy is still under detention is insufficient. The Court of First Instance last year also dismissed Phinnapha’s request for the same reason.

In February, Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, Superintendent of Kaeng Krachan National Park Office in western Phetchaburi Province, who on 17 April 2014 was involved with four other park officials in arresting and detaining Billy for alleged illegal possession of a wild bee honeycomb and six bottles of honey, testified to the court that they were not involved in Billy’s disappearance.

In the appeal request, Phinnapha pointed out that since Billy and Chaiwat were in dispute because in 2011 Billy assisted Karen villagers to file a lawsuit against Chaiwat in the Administrative Court for allegedly evicting and burning the houses of Karen villagers, park officials might be involved the unlawful detention of Billy and his subsequent disappearance.   

She added that all the witnesses who have already testified on the case might be biased because they were working under Chaiwat, and pressed the court has to establish the facts of the case as soon as possible.

In January, the police filed charges under Article 157 of the Criminal Code (malfeasance in office) against Chaiwat and four other park officials for the alleged unlawful detention of Billy before his disappearance.      

In addition to the appeal, Phinnapha submitted a petition to the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), to urge the Commission to accelerate its investigation into the park officials who witnessed the unlawful detention of Billy.