Missing activists' wives call for justice

Missing activists' wives call for justice

Human rights activists whose husbands are still missing years after they mysteriously vanished have urged the government to pass a law on preventing enforced disappearances, to address human rights violations.

Prominent human rights campaigner Angkhana Neelapaijit urged Thai authorities to enact the Torture and Enforced Disappearance Prevention and Suppression bill as quickly as possible, regardless of the fact that no missing persons case has been resolved.

"I have fought a lot in the past 10 years, but nothing has changed," said Ms Angkhana, whose Thai-Muslim lawyer husband, Somchai Neelapaijai, is one of the missing.

Ms Angkhana addressed a press conference organised by the Sombath Initiative on Monday -- named after the missing Laos lawyer -- at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) to mark four years since Sombath's enforced disappearance.

However, she said some parts of the bill, now with the National Legislative Assembly, need revision.

For example, the definition of terms and eligibility of the family seeking justice for the missing person under law was vague, she noted.

Government efforts to deal with missing persons cases are a gauge of how sincere it is in tackling corruption, she added.

Ms Angkhana said she has lost hope of seeking justice under the present and previous governments.

Her husband, Somchai, a human rights lawyer, is believed to have been abducted by five state officials on Ramkhamhaeng Road in March 2004. His body has never been discovered.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) declared the Somchai case closed two months ago, reasoning that no culprits were found.

"I tried to keep the case open in a bid to benefit from the anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill once passed into law, but the investigation team disagreed," she said.

Meanwhile, Pinnipa Preuksapan, the young wife of Porlachee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen, a missing ethnic Karen land and rights activist, shared her pain.

"I was unable to file a complaint because the police told me that Billy was arrested, not abducted. But he never came home," she said through a translator.

Billy's case is being investigated by the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, and according to his wife, may be brought to court next month.

"Enforced disappearance is a common threat which often happens to ordinary people from poor backgrounds like our husbands," Shui-Meng Ng, wife of Lao community leader Sombath Somphone, who was forcibly disappeared off a street in Vientiane in 2012.

"Hope is the only motivation that keeps our struggle going," she said.

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