DSI deputy chief U-turns on missing Karen activist
The deputy chief of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on Friday pledged that he will propose that the DSI committee take on the enforced disappearance case of Karen rights activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen.
Cross Cultural Foundation director Pornpen Kongkajornkiat said she and other human rights defenders accompanied Mr Porlajee's common-law wife Pinnapa "Mueno" Prueksapan to the DSI to request the case be accepted as a special case and Pol Lt Col Korawat Panpraphakorn pledged his support.
Ms Pornpen was speaking during a seminar held to mark the fourth anniversary of Mr Porlajee's disappearance. She went to the DSI early yesterday before the seminar.
Last year, the DSI turned down the request by Ms Pinnipa on the grounds that she was not Mr Porlajee's legal wife.
The delay in investigating Mr Porlajee's disappearance prompted Ms Pinnapa, who has five children with the activist, to continue leading the fight for justice.
Mr Porlajee, who fought against eviction orders and had been in conflict with government officials at Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi, was last seen on April 17, 2014, in the custody of state officials.
At the time of his arrest, Mr Porlajee was helping his relatives, a group of ethnic Karen, to sue Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, for setting fire to their bamboo huts and rice barns in a series of forest evictions.
Mr Chaiwat admitted arresting the activist for collecting wild honey, but claimed that he released him after a warning. The claims were disputed by Mr Porlajee's family who later filed a series of complaints with the authorities. Mr Porlajee has never returned home.
Mr Chaiwat and his team faced a murder charge related to Mr Porlajee's disappearance but were eventually acquitted for lack of evidence and were reinstated into state service.
At the seminar held at Thammasat University, human rights activists and academics gathered to present their views on Mr Porlajee's case and the situation of enforced dissappearances in Thailand. The seminar calls for the government to strengthen its efforts in dealing with involuntary and enforced disappearance by establishing an effective legal and institution framework.
Pol Col Traiwit Namthongthai, who investigated Mr Porlajee's case, said he presented evidence which indicated that Mr Porlajee was never released.