Critics of Lahu activist killing could face defamation charges: Police

A police commissioner has concluded that a young Lahu activist summarily killed was a drug dealer and has warned people who criticise the authorities over the killing that they could face defamation charges.   

On 22 March 2017, Pol Lt Gen Poolsap Prasertsak, Region 5 Police Commissioner, announced that officers will investigate comments on social media about the summary killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae, a 17-year-old Lahu activist.

After a two hour meeting in Chiang Mai, he warned that those who wrote comments which violate the criminal defamation law could face charges for defaming soldiers and other officers.

The Police Commissioner stated that the authorities have solid evidence, such as the bank statement of the slain activist and findings of an undercover police officer, to prove that Chaiyapoom was an active drug dealer in Chiang Mai.

“I conclude that he is involved in drug trafficking,” Matichon Online quoted Poolsap as saying.

According to the army report, on 17 March Chaiyapoom tried to escape custody after soldiers arrested him and Pongsanai Saengtala, 19, the driver of the car in which the authorities allegedly found 2,800 methamphetamine pills.

After the young activist hid in a nearby bush and attempted to throw a grenade at the soldiers who followed him, one of the soldiers shot him dead with a single shot in self-defence, Col Winthai Suvaree, spokesperson of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) told the press.

But in an interview that Thai PBS broadcast on 21 March 2017, an anonymous source said that Chaiyapoom was dragged out of the car and beaten by soldiers before he was killed near a checkpoint in Chiang Dao District of Chiang Mai.    

Chaiyapoom was a well-known activist from the Young Seedlings Network Camp in Chiang Dao district. He was involved in numerous campaigns to promote the rights of ethnic Lahu and other vulnerable ethnic minorities in northern Thailand to gain citizenship, health care, and access to education. He also spoke out against abuses by the Thai security forces against his community during anti-drug operations.

Chaiyapoom Pasae, a 17-year-old member of the Lahu ethnic minority