The military has refused to reveal footage of the summary execution of a Lahu activist, saying it might confuse the investigation process.
On 27 March 2016, the 3rd Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop said the military has already sent to the police CCTV evidence of the checkpoint where Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was executed. The military therefore has no authority to reveal the evidence to the public without court permission.
Vijak recently told the media that the activist’s summary killing was justifiable as it was done in self-defence. He also added that “if [he] was there, [he] might turn on automatic mode,” rather than just firing a single shot to kill the activist.
“I confirm that the soldier [who shot Chaiyapoom to death] followed the rule and he had to take immediate action at a moment of crisis. More importantly, the soldier didn’t have any personal relationship with Chaiyapoom so he had no intention to harm him,” said Vijak
This statement has outraged the public. The Constitution Protection Association has filed a petition to the Office of the Ombudsman, urging an ethical investigation of Vijak.
Gen Chalermchai Sittisart, the Army Commander-in-Chief, commented that Vijak might have been so excited in front of the media that he said something totally different from what he meant.
What Vijak tried to say, according to Gen Chalermchai, is that the soldier was ‘well-trained’ and did follow the rule on using arms, because he shot the activist in manual mode, not automatic mode.
He has already advised Vijak to be more careful in his words, especially in front of the media, given the fact that he is a high-ranking soldier. He added that if the NGO calls for an ethical investigation, the military will comply.
Chalermchai also stated that he had already watched the CCTV recording of the scene. He said the controversial evidence does not ‘answer all questions.’ Releasing the footage might lead to confusion in the investigation process and arguments among society.
Chalermchai and Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy junta head, confirmed that the military will not influence the investigation process. If the authorities find anyone guilty, they will be strictly prosecuted.
Chaiyapoom was killed on 17 March at a checkpoint in Mueang Na Subdistrict of Chiang Dao District in Chiang Mai Province. Soldiers at the checkpoint claimed that they found a quantity of methamphetamines in the car that Chaiyapoom was riding in and that he resisted arrest by pulling out a knife before running into a bush with a grenade in his hand. The authorities therefore had no choice but to shoot him dead.
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 being 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 Mai Province. 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.