On 8 April 2016, human rights defender Mr Supoj Kansong was seriously injured outside Khong Sai Pattana community, Chai Buri district, Surat Thani province as a result of gunshots fired by an unidentified man.
Supoj Kansong is a land rights defender from Khlong Sai Pattana community in Chai Buri district of Surat Thani province. He is also the key witness in the criminal case of murdered human rights defender Mr Chai Bunthonglek, opened on 21 May 2015 by the Wiang Sra Public Prosecutor. Chai Bunthonglek, who worked at the Southern Peasant’s Federation of Thailand (SPFT), was killed on 11 February 2015 in Khlong Sai Pattana community. SPFT is a network that was formed in 2008, campaigning for the right to agricultural land in the Surat Thani province and other areas in the region.
On 8 April 2016, Supoj Kansong was driving to his village in Chai Buri district, when the tyres of his car were punctured by nails lying on the road. The human rights defender continued to drive until he was again targeted, this time by eight gunshots while passing the Khong Sai Pattana community. Supoj Kansong was seriously injured in several places including his right thigh, hip and leg but survived the attack. He was taken to the Chai Buri Hospital and subsequently transferred to Surat Thani Provincial Hospital, where he is currently receiving all the necessary medical treatment. The family of the human rights defender has filed a complaint regarding the attack with the Chai Buri Police Station.
On 15 March 2016, the Provincial Court in Wiang Sa district of Surat Thani province dismissed charges against Mr Santi Wanthong, a suspect in the assassination of Chai Bunthonglek. He was indicted for murder, violation of the Gun Control Act, and carrying weapons in public, before being acquitted. Two other suspects initially arrested for the crime were not indicted. According to the Court the assassination of the human rights defender took place at night and therefore the suspects’ identities given by two witnesses, who were at the crime scene, were found to be unreliable.
In addition to Chai Bunthonglek three other human rights defenders from SPFT have been killed since 2010 including Ms Montha Chukaew and Ms Pranee Boonrat in 2012 and Mr Somporn Pattanaphum in 2010. No one has been prosecuted for these three killings, reportedly due to insufficient evidence obtained by the police.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Thailand to:
Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack on human rights defender Supoj Kansong, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of human rights defender Supoj Kansong as well as of the members of his family;
Carry out further investigations into the killings of human rights defenders Chai Bunthonglek, Montha Chukaew, Pranee Boonratand Somporn Pattanaphum, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.