On the sixth anniversary of the apparent enforced disappearance of Karen activist, Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, the ICJ repeated its calls for Thailand to bring those responsible to justice and apply appropriate penalties that take into account the extreme seriousness of the crime.
On 23 December 2019, after the Thai Ministry of Justice’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in September had located bone fragments which they identified as likely belonging to Billy, eight charges, including premeditated murder and concealing the body, were brought against four officials of Kaeng Krachan National Park, with whom Billy was last seen. However, in January 2020, public prosecutors suddenly dropped seven murder-related charges against the four accused on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to take the cases to trial.
“It is disturbing that after six years the prosecutors could not move forward with the prosecution because the authorities failed to gather evidence to identify the perpetrator for Billy’s murder despite the discovery of bone fragments,” said Frederick Rawski, Asia Regional Director of the ICJ. “Thai authorities should, pursuant to its international legal obligations, continue to gather other direct and circumstantial evidence to prosecute and punish perpetrator with appropriate penalties.”
The four suspects are now facing only a minor charge for failing to exercise their official functions because they released Billy instead of handing him over to the police after they took him into custody in April 2014 for collecting wild honey in the park.
“Thailand needs to implement legislation criminalizing enforced disappearance without delay so that prosecutors have the appropriate tools to prosecute those responsible, and are not forced to bring charges for crimes of lesser gravity,” he added.
Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director, t: +66 64 478 1121; e: frederick.rawski(a)icj.org
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