Thailand: A letter of petition concerning the case of Mr. Pholachi Rakchongcharoen who was held in custody by Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, Former Chief of the Kaeng Krachan National Park and other three National Park officials in the Kaeng Krachan National Park since 17 April 2014

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    Attention: the Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation

    Dear Sir,

    In pursuance to the arson of houses, rice barns and other properties of the traditional Karen Thai villagers, it has given rise to one of the gravest human rights violations, the case of Mr. Pholachi Rakchongcharoen who was held in custody by Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, Former Chief of the Kaeng Krachan National Park and other three National Park officials in the Kaeng Krachan National Park since 17 April 2014 when he was last seen.

    This letter of petition features reasons supporting the proposals to have Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn suspended or removed from the service pending an criminal trial against him and pending the investigation of an inquiry committee set up by the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

    1. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn is a defendant in an administrative case concerning his alleged arson of houses, rice barns, paddies, rice and other properties of the traditional Karen Thai villagers who have been living in an indigenous community in Ban Bang Kloy Bon or Ban Jai Phaen Din. Led by Mr. Koi Mimi, the traditional Karen Thai villagers have filed the case with the Central Administrative Court on 4 May 2012 as the Black Case no. S58/2555 and Mr. Nawae Mimi, in another case with the Administrative Court as the Black Case no. 1694/2555. Both are pending the trials in the Central Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court to seek remedies to the damage and the recognition of traditional community rights per the Constitution.

    2. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn has been found to have committed human rights violation per the investigation report on human rights violation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 19 September 2014 for forcibly evicting, dismantling and the arson of properties belonging to Karen villagers living in Ban Bang Kloy Bon and Ban Jai Phaen Din in the Kaeng Krachan National Park. His negligence of duties has been found to cause a human rights violation per the 2007 Constitution of the Thai Kingdom’s Sections 4, 41 and 66. The NHRC also instructed various concerned agencies to act as the following to remediate the situation.

    2.1 The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation should set up an inquiry committee to investigate the forcible eviction, dismantling and arson of properties belonging to the Karen villagers in Ban Bang Kloy Bon and Ban Jai Phaen Din. Further arrest, intimidation and harassment should be stopped per the cabinet resolution on 3 August 2010 concerning the policy guideline for the restoration of traditional Karen livelihood and the permission from the Karen villagers to return to their farmland temporarily pending the final resolution of the problem.

    2.2 The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation should carry out a survey of landholding among the Karen villagers in Ban Bang Kloy Bon and Ban Jai Phaen Din per the cabinet resolution on 30 June 1998 concerning the solution of land dispute in the forested area which must be completed within sixty days.

    2.3 The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and the Provincial Authority of Phetchaburi should set up a committee to provide remedies and compensation for damage inflicted on the Karen villagers as a result of the forcible eviction and arson of properties within sixty days.

    3. A criminal case against Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn has been reported to the police by the Conservation Groups of Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, and Prachuab Khiri Khan Provinces led by Ms. Jintana Kaewkhao. The Provincial Police Region 7 has been asked to take legal action against Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, Former Chief of the Kaeng Krachan National Park, who was alleged for destroying houses of the traditional Karen Thai villagers in Tambon Huay Mapriang, Kaeng Krachan District, Phetcahburi, per the letter dated 3 May 2012 describing his offences as follows;

    3.1 Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn allegedly collaborated with his subordinate officials, five persons and upward using firearms to force the traditional Karen Thai out of their land in Tambon Huay Mapriang, Kaeng Krachan District, Phetcahburi and Tambon Song Phi Nong, Nong Ya Plong District, Phetcahburi. Such act was alleged to have compelled the other person to do or not to do any act, and if the traditional Karen Thai had refused to act in compliance, their houses would have been burned down causing them to feel worried about the impact on their property.

    3.2 Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn allegedly entered or instructed his subordinate officials armed with gun to enter houses of traditional Karen Thai living in Tambon Huay Mapriang, Kaeng Krachan District, Phetcahburi and Tambon Song Phi Nong, Nong Ya Plong District, Phetcahburi. A threat was made that if the villagers refused to move away, their properties would have been burned down. The entry made into a house without seeking permission from the owner cannot be construed otherwise but a trespass into a real state of another person to committee anything which disrupt peaceful living in the immovable property of the persons.

    3.3 Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn allegedly acted or collaborated with the unidentified names and number of his subordinate officials to carry out the dismantling of houses belonging to the traditional Karen Thai in Tambon Huay Mapriang, Kaeng Krachan District, Phetcahburi and Tambon Song Phi Nong, Nong Ya Plong District, Phetcahburi, the act of which had caused the damaging, destroying, causing the depreciation of value or rendering useless the property belonging to the other person or which the other person to be the co-owner.

    3.4 Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn allegedly acted or collaborated with the unidentified names and number of his subordinate officials to lit the fire or to help to lit the fire causing arson to the houses and properties of the traditional Karen Thai in Tambon Huay Mapriang, Kaeng Krachan District, Phetcahburi and the fire had caused damage as desired.

    3.5 Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn allegedly acted or collaborated with his subordinate officials to set fire on the houses of the traditional Karen Thai in Tambon Huay Mapriang, Kaeng Krachan District, Phetcahburi causing damage and suffering among the displaced families. Mr. Chaiwat also dated to tell the report of Channel 3 and other reporters, a third party in this case, in a manner likely to impair the reputation of the traditional Karen Thai villagers or to expose them to be hated or scorned by accusing of being a terrorist group, a part of the Karen National Union (KNU), an ethnic forces of a neighboring country and being forest encroachers who had cut down trees and perpetuated narcotic offences. Such false information has caused the audience of the news reports or villagers in nearby villages or other persons being uninformed of the real information to hate the traditional Karen Thai. It was the act of imputing anything to the other person before a third party in a manner likely to impair the reputation of such other person or to expose such other person to be hated or bias.

    3.6 Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, a competent official and commanding official, allegedly has neglected his duties to control his subordinate officials letting them, in an unknown number and unidentified names, to commit an offence against the law by stealing the paddies, the clothes and money from the traditional Karen Thai villagers. In addition, an act or a collaboration has been made with his subordinate officials to enter houses of the traditional Karen Thai villagers and to destroy their properties, to set fire on the properties and to impair the reputation of the traditional Karen Thai villagers by claiming that they were part of a terrorist group, a part of the Karen National Union (KNU), an ethnic forces of a neighboring country and involved with narcotic trade, which was entirely unfounded. Their act could not be sanctioned by any law. Thus, they are found to commit malfeasance causing damage to the traditional Karen Thai villagers.

    4. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn is subject to a criminal investigation by the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). Prior to this, the inquiry official at the Kaeng Krachan Police Station in Phetcahburi, had submitted an investigation report accusing him of violating Section 157 of the Penal Code for being an official, wrongfully exercises or does not exercise any of his functions regarding the arrest of Pholachi Rakchongcharoen, also known as Billy and for dishonestly exercising or omitting to exercise any of his functions. The case is pending an investigation by the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

    5. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn is subject to an investigation by the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) as on 19 October 2015, Mr. Koi Mimi or Mr. Kor-i Mimi had reported the case to the inquiry official at the Kaeng Krachan Police Station, Phetcahburi asking the police to take legal action against Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, Former Chief of the Kaeng Krachan National Park, for setting fire on properties and the case is pending the inquiry by the Office of Public Sector AntiCorruption Commission (PACC Region 7).

    6. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, while serving as the Chief of the Kaeng Krachan National Park, was in possession of images and video clips showing wood processing in the area of the Kaeng Krachan National Park. And according to the investigation of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, it was found to have been committed by officials of the Kaeng Krachan National Park and the finding of the report had been submitted to the DNP. Later, the Provincial Police of Phetcahburi by Pol Col Surasak Suksawaeg, Deputy Commander of Phetcahburi Police, has set up an inquiry committee to conduct fact finding in the area of Ban Pong Luk and Ban Bang Kloy together with forensic officials of Phtcahburi and they had found in the area adjacent to the Office of Mae Sariang National Park Protection Unit 10 teemed with fallen timbers and wood processing using chain saw.

    7. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn is a defendant in a criminal case concerning the illegal possession of firearm and ammunition (war weapon) and the case is on trial with the Phetcahburi Provincial Court as the Black Case no. 288/2559.

    Therefore, to ensure the compliance with the regulation for civil service for the supervision and administration of public affairs, you are kindly asked to invoke Article 101 of the 2008 Civil Service Act which bestows on the commanding official to suspend from office or to remove from office pending the investigation, the trial, or the result of the trial in the case of Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, an ordinary civil servant who is being indicted in a grave criminal offence.

    In addition, a committee should be set up to investigate the arson of houses and rice barns of the traditional Karen Thai villagers, as a result of an abuse of office and failure to perform the duties according to the procedure and guidelines concerning the execution of power by state officials per Section 22 of the 1961 National Park Act’s (3) of the procedure and guidelines which require that the competent officer acting as the Chief of the National Park or the person acting in such capacity to issue an administrative order to instruct the offender to remove or demolish the building or crops or whatever things which had rendered a change in condition to anything in the national park and to remove them from the National Park or to restore such thing to its former condition. But according to the National Park Act’s Section 22(a), the offender has to be informed of the instruction or the instruction sent to the person’s residence, or the instruction being put up in a place easy to see at the spot and it has to be affixed before competent official per the regulation concerning witnesses (Section 70 of the Administrative Procedure Act coupled with the Ministerial Regulation no. 11(1999), its Article 4 of the procedure and guidelines. In addition, the competent official has to declare the instruction by putting it up at the district office, the sub-district office, the village headman’s office, the Tambon Administration Organization, local police station or at the crime scene, one copy at each spot per Article 5 and determining the time within which the subordinate officials shall be able to execute the instruction per Article 6 of the procedure and guidelines. But it has turned out that Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn had not act in compliance with either Article 5 or 6. Instead, he had proceeded to set fire on the houses and rice barns of the villagers even though the act was not provided for by any law, and therefore it was an act of arson on property.

    Regarding the disappearance of Billy, the undersigned organizations would like to have an inquiry committee set up to investigate the disappearance of Mr. Pholachi Rakchongcharoen, also known as Billy on 17 May 2014. Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn had him held in custody that day and admitted to being the person holding Mr. Pholachi or Billy in custody. The information was consistent with the result of the investigation of the police taskforce to investigate the disappearance of Mr. Pholachi or Billy and the inquiry official opined that Mr. Chaiwat had not released Billy from custody and until now his fate remain unknown.

    In addition, domestic and international human rights organizations have placed utmost importance on the disappearance of the community representative and the act to demand the rights of Mr. Pholachi Rakchongcharoen, a Karen Human Rights Defender. They have also placed the importance on the rights of indigenous peoples living in the forest consistent to the major principle upheld by the United Nations and the UNESCO based on the following facts.

    1. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the treaty to which Thailand is a state party has stated in February 2012 that it had accepted to review as an urgent matter the complaint concerning the Karen villagers in the Kaeng Krachan National Park who were being forcibly evicted, had their houses and rice barns set of fire. A letter of concern has been issued based on the situation on 9 March 2012 addressing the Thai government and requesting for clarification as to the steps to be taken to improve the living condition of the Karen villagers in the Kaeng Krachan National Park.

    2. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has released a concluding observation CERD/C/THA/Q/1-3 dated 3 July 2012, paragraph 16, stating that “The Committee is concerned that the various forestry and environment protection laws may have a discriminatory effect on ethnic groups living in forests. The Committee is also concerned that it has not been assured how the free and prior informed consent of those groups is guaranteed in decision-making processes affecting them”.

    3. The UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), a monitoring body of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), to which Thailand is a state party in its publicized concluding observation dated 23 May 2014, states that “The continuing and numerous alleged cases of enforced disappearance, in particular against human rights, anti-corruption and environmental activists as well as witness of human rights violations, as revealed by the recent case of the disappearance of Pholachi Rakcharoen…”. CAT recommended that “The State party should take all the necessary measures to prevent enforced disappearances and to combat impunity for the crime of enforced disappearance”.

    Based on the compelling reasons to uphold the duties to ensure justice to all people affected by the police and human resource management of the state, particularly in view of the management of the natural resources to preserve them as the national and world heritage, and to meanwhile uphold the rights of the people living in traditional community in the conservation areas under the international principle of human rights and the Kaeng Krachan National Park is now being nominated as a to UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site which makes us proud as Thai citizens.

    The undersigned organizations urge you in your capacity as Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to consider the three urgent proposals;

    1. To suspend or to remove from office pending the result of the investigation or the result of the trial as he is being tried for a criminal offence

    2. To have an inquiry committee to investigate Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn and his role in setting fire on the houses and rice barns of the traditional Karen Thai villagers as it was deemed an abuse of office for his lack of compliance with the procedure and guidelines for the execution of power by state official per Section 22 of the 1961 National Park Act

    3. To have an inquiry committee to investigate Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn regarding the disappearance of Mr. Pholachi Rakchongcharoen, also known as Billy while being in custody of Mr. Chaiwat on 17 May 2014 and to distribute the result of the investigation to his family and public without delay.

    You are urged to rely on your utmost prudence in assigning a person to take charge and supervise the management of the Kaeng Krachan National Park by taking into account the person’s experience vis-as-vis respect on human rights principle. A non-violent approach should be adopted to solve problems and to ensure justice for all people and contribute to the management of a sustainable forest and natural resources.

    Yours sincerely,
    (Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet)
    Director, Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)

     

    The other signatories
    1. Network of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand
    2. Highland People Taskforce (HPT)
    3. Network for the Education of Indigenous Youth
    4. Tonkla Youth Network for Indigenous Peoples
    5. Indigenous Media Network
    6. Karen Network for Culture and Environment in Tanao Sri
    7. Karen Studies and Development Centre
    8. Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
    9. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
    10. The Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR)
    11. Community Resources Centre Foundation (CRC)
    12. Karen Network for Culture and Environment
    13. Raks Thai Foundation (North)
    14. Wisdom of Ethnic Foundation (WISE)
    15. Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples Foundation (IKAP)
    16. Indigenous Peoples Foundation for Education and Environment
    17. Hill Area and Community Development Foundation (HADF)
    18. Chiang Mai Diocese’s Social Action Center
    19. Pgaz K’ Nyau for Sustainable Development Association
    20. The Social Development and Service Unit (SDSU) of the Church of Christ in Thailand
    21. Inter Mountain Peoples’ Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT)
    22. Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights (CPCR)

    Click here to download full petition letter.

    Source: VoiceFromThais