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Attorney General’s Office indictes four national park officials in Billy case

Photo: Luke Duggleby/Protection International
Photo: Luke Duggleby/Protection International

n the forced disappearance case of human rights defender Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, the Attorney General’s Office on Monday indicted four national park officials accused of abducting and murdering the prominent activist in April 2014.

On 15 August, the Office of the Attorney-General formally informed the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) of its decision to indict the four men. The decision came after the DSI submitted additional evidence incriminating Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province and three of his staff. The charges include illegal confinement, premeditated murder, and concealing the victim’s body.

More than eight years ago, on 17 April 2014, Billy disappeared after being arrested at a checkpoint in the Kaeng Krachan National Park in western Thailand. Park officials said they released the ethnic Karen man after questioning him briefly and had no information about his whereabouts. Later, special investigators found fragments of Billy’s bones in an oil barrel, salvaged from the bottom of a reservoir in the national park.

Billy was a prominent ethnic Karen activist who had fought for the rights of his indigenous community to stay in the national park. At the time of his disappearance, he had been collecting evidence to prove that national park officials were illegally evicting indigenous communities in this remote area at the Thai-Myanmar border.

The investigation into Billy’s disappearance has been slow and painstaking for his family, who have been waiting for justice for more than eight years.
Under international human rights treaties, Thailand must investigate and prosecute enforced disappearance, torture, custodial deaths, and other alleged human rights violations. In February, the country’s lawmakers passed a long-stalled bill criminalising torture and political disappearances. But the law is still waiting for approval from the Senate.

 

Read our story about Billy’s community of Bang Kloi and other forest communities in Southeast Asia who fight for their right to live within national parks.