The 104-year-old grandfather of missing Karen-rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen has accused the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi of burning down Karen villages in the district four years ago.
Ko-i Meemi arrived at Kaeng Krachan police station with a lawyer, relatives and other Karen people on Monday. He filed a complaint against former park chief Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn.
The old man told police through a translator that in May 2011 Mr Chaiwat and his subordinates set fire to the houses of Karen living in Huai Mae Phriang sub-district of Kaeng Krachan.
He said that armed park rangers had forced him to leave his house, even though he was partially blind. The rangers did not let him collect his belongings or valuables, and took him away on a helicopter. He later found out both his home and barn were burnt down. He had specifically begged the park officials not to destroy his barn.
He said that he had not expected such action by officials, as he had lived there since early childhood.
His lawyer Waraporn Uthairangsee said that Mr Ko-i had decided to bring the charges himself after learning there was no police progress made in following up a previous complaint about the arson filed by a conservation network.
On Sept 1, the Supreme court upheld two lower court decisions and dismissed a case against Mr Chaiwat over the disappearance of Karen rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, Mr Ko-i’s grandson, for lack of clear evidence.
Mr Chaiwat earlier admitted to arresting Billy, 30, for possessing wild honey, but said he had then released the Karen man.
Prior to Billy’s disappearance, Mr Chaiwat was accused of attempting to evict Karen people from the Kaeng Krachan National Park by taking staff to set fire to their homes in Bangkloy Bon and Jai Phandin villages. This led to ongoing conflict between the Karen and park officials.
Billy was fighting for indigenous Karen forest dwellers’ land rights in Kaeng Krachan National Park. He went missing in April last year, just before he was to appear as a witness in a trial in which Karen people demanded compensation for the fire and the right to live in the national park.