Activists call for justice on ‘vanishings’

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    Concern about forced disappearances in the country has been raised to mark the 100-day disappearance of Karen activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen today.

    “The forced disappearance of people is a crime. Thai law needs to be amended to protect people from forced disappearances,” said Angkhana Neelapaijit, a human rights advocate whose husband, Somchai Neelapaijit, a Muslim lawyer who helped Muslim suspects in the far South fight legal cases, has been missing since 2004.

    She spoke during a gathering of Karen people in Bangkok yesterday to call for justice for Mr Porlajee.

    Mrs Angkhana and other human rights activists raised their concerns at the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

    Thailand signed the pact back in 2012 but has yet to ratify it for enforcement.

    The widespread or systemic use of forced disappearances is further defined as a “crime against humanity”.

    “The missing persons cases of Billy and Mr Somchai are enough to prove that we need to ratify the convention,” said Law Reform Commission vice-president Sunee Chaiyaros.

    “Forced disappearances of people need to be considered as criminal cases.”

    A lawyer from the Lawyers Council of Thailand Surapong Kongchantuk echoed the view.

    When a person is reported missing, police will launch a search but they will not investigate the matter as they would in criminal cases.

    Police will accept a missing person case as a criminal case only if a body of the missing person is found.

    “If a dead body is not found, Thai investigation processes will consider the matter as not having enough important evidence,” he said.

    Mr Porlajee has been missing since April 17 after he was detained by Kaeng Krachan National Park’s chief Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn in Kanchanaburi province.

    On July 17, the Phetchaburi Court rejected a petition for an urgent hearing against Mr Chaiwat over the disappearance of the Karen activist, saying there was insufficient evidence to support the belief that Mr Chaiwat and his associates were still detaining Mr Porlajee as they had been accused of.

    Original source