Almost three years after the disappearance of a well-known Karen activist, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation has refused to accept the case.
On 30 January 2017, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) revealed that it will not investigate the enforced disappearance of Porlajee ‘Billy’ Rakchongcharoen, a Karen human rights and community rights activist.
The decision of the DSI is a further setback for efforts to bring justice to Porlajee’s family, by removing the possibility of an expedited investigation. The case is now solely in the hands of regular police.
Porlajee has been missing since 17 April 2014. He disappeared after being arrested by Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, a former Superintendent of Kaeng Krachan National Park in western Phetchaburi Province, and four other park officers.
He was detained because a protected wild bee honeycomb and six bottles of honey were allegedly found in his possession.
The Karen activist’s disappearance came three years after he assisted Karen villagers of Pong Luk Bang Kloy to file a lawsuit against Chaiwat for ordering the eviction and burning of the village in May 2011.
Shortly after his disappearance, Pinnapha Phrueksapan, Porlajee’s wife, requested the court to hold an emergency trial under Article 90 of the Criminal Procedure Code to investigate his allegedly unlawful detention. But the Court of First Instance ruled there was insufficient evidence that Bill’s detention was unlawful.
In early 2015, investigation officers from the Royal Thai Police Region 7 filed charges under Article 157 of the Criminal Code (malfeasance in office) against Chaiwat and four other park officers for the allegedly unlawful detention of Billy.
Despite being the prime suspect in the enforced disappearance of Billy, Chaiwat was in May 2016 named as the head of a forest and wildlife protection unit called the ‘Tiger Corps’.