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Right groups demand independence in activist's murder case

26 Human rights organizations issued a statement on Monday (5 September) calling for independence and professionalism in the judicial process, after former Kaeng Krachan National Park Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn and three other park officials were indicted for the abduction and murder of community rights activist and Bang Kloi indigenous community leader Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen. 

A Karen man offers a tribute before Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen in a commemoration event at Bang Kloi village. (File photo)

The full statement reads: 

Restore justice to Billy and his family, the ethnic community, and society

On Monday 5 September at 9.00am, according to reports, Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn and three other individuals will be indicted at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Talingchan in the murder case against Mr. Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen. An alliance of the undersigned human rights organizations takes this as a major steppingstone toward the restoration of justice for Billy’s family, the Ban Bang Kloi-Chai Phaen Din ethnic Karen community in order to stop the culture of impunity. It took over seven years for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to carry out a criminal investigation before the four National Park officials were charged with premediated murder against Mr. Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen.

Since being held in custody by officials of the National Park on 17 April 2014, Mr. Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen has never returned to his family and society. The DSI and OAG have collaborated in an investigation that has led to a decision to press charges against Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn and other three suspects.

These civil society organizations demand that the government independently and professionally sees to it that justice will be served in this case, to genuinely end the culture of impunity and to bring the perpetrators to justice promptly and without delay.

Evidence should be corroborated efficiently to assure society that justice will be done.

The struggle to demand justice and to address violence inflicted on the Ban Bang Kloi-Chai Phaen Din ethnic Karen community has been fraught with obstacles. The litigation related to the forced eviction and burning of houses and rice barns of the villagers in Ban Bang Kloi -Chai Phaen Din has stalled for over ten years. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn was indicted for the murder of Mr. Tassakamon Ob-om and has already been acquitted. In addition to the enforced disappearance of Billy, there is a countersuit against attorneys of Grandfather Ko-i Meemi, a countersuit against senior Karen activists and reporters who report on the movement to ask for justice for the Ban Bang Kloi villagers, etc.

Solutions to resolve disputes over the land and the maintenance of the traditional livelihood of the ethnic Karens in the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex have yet to be found.

All these obstacles worry many people. Concerns have been raised about the legal case against Mr. Chaiwat and other suspects who are government officials and can still wield power to their legal advantage. There are also attempts to restore him to his position after he was dismissed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, efforts to cover up evidence, and tampering with evidence to be heard in court.

Protection of witnesses in the murder case of Billy is therefore pivotal to ensure they can safely disclose the truth. In addition, criminal actions against the attorneys authorized by Grandfather Ko-i, the grandfather of Billy for reporting false information to the authorities, and criminal defamation by publication charges against senior Karen activists must be dropped.

The undersigned rights organizations have the following demands:

1. All public authorities are urged to carry out their duties independently and professionally to bring the perpetrators to justice and to end the culture of impunity.

2. Concerned authorities should provide protection to witnesses and injured parties as well as Billy’s family in order that they are able to demand justice safely without being intimidated.

3. All charges against attorneys authorized by Grandfather Ko-i filed by the Kaeng Krachan Police Station and cases against senior Karen activists and reporters filed with the Phetchabun Provincial Court should be dropped.

4. The media are urged to prudently and impartially monitor and report information concerning the criminal action on the premediated murder against Billy. It is a complicated case in terms of forensic science and the history of violence and human rights violations against ethnic people.

5. Media coverage should be comprehensive to ensure that the voices and opinions of the injured parties and the family are heard. Until now, reports have covered interviews with the suspects leaving little room for other parties to bring to light their information and facts. Some remarks made to the press can be consideredas  condescending to the deceased whereas in other instances, human beings are referred to a “herd”. An effort should be made to eradicate any racial discrimination in communication and reportage.

  1. Network of the Indigenous Peoples of Thailand
  2. Karen Network for Culture and Environment Tanaosri
  3. West Karen Network for Culture and Environment
  4. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
  5. Union for Civil Liberties (UCL)
  6. Duayjai Group
  7. Network of People Affected by Special Laws (JASAD)
  8. Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
  9. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
  10. Northern Development Foundation (NDF)
  11. Save Bang Kloi Alliance
  12. Center for the Promotion of Community-based Organizations for the Environmental Restoration
  13. Community Resource Centre (CRC)
  14. Network of Chao Lay in Andaman
  15. Community Network for Social and Political Reform
  16. Network of Southern Indigenous Peoples
  17. Network of Midi Moklen indigenous Youth
  18. Free Ethnicity
  19. Campaign for Popular Democracy
  20. Thailand Non-Binary Group
  21. Assembly of NGOs for the Protection of the Environment and Natural Resource Conservation
  22. We fair
  23. P-move
  24. Peace Rights Foundation
  25. Karen Network for culture and environment
  26. Rights and Peace Foundation

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