Find, punish Porlajee's killers, says PM
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he has instructed investigators to ensure their probe into the death of Karen rights activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen is watertight and brings the culprits to justice, no matter who they are.
"Law-breakers cannot be spared punishment. Things must follow the law," he said.
Kerdchoke Kasamwongjit, deputy director-general of the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, said that the department is considering compensation and legal help for the family of Porlajee under the "Justice Care" programme. Porlajee's family is expected to get about 100,000 baht in compensation, Mr Kerdchoke said, adding that the department would also seek scholarships for his children.
Pinnapa Pruksapan, Porlajee's wife, said that while she has confidence in the Department of Investigation's handling of the case, she is still worried that influential people may interfere.
She also rebuffed comments by Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, who questioned the DNA test which led authorities to conclude the Karen rights activist was murdered.
The test found that DNA from a skull fragment retrieved from a reservoir near a rope bridge in the park matched DNA from Porlajee's mother. The test was carried out at the Central Institute of Forensic Science.
Mr Chaiwat said the skull fragment was found in the same location where Karen tribes scatter ashes of the deceased and therefore may not belong to Billy.
In response, Ms Pinnapa said that the park is a restricted area and that Karen locals bury or cremate their dead but do not scatter the ashes into rivers or streams.
Porlajee was last seen on April 17, 2014, in the custody of park officials. At the time of his arrest, he was helping his ethnic Karen relatives to sue Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, for setting fire to their bamboo huts and rice barns during a series of forest evictions.
Mr Chaiwat later claimed Porlajee was arrested for collecting wild honey, but was released after a warning. He and his team faced a murder charge related to Porlajee's disappearance but were eventually acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Mr Chaiwat said on Thursday he has photos taken between March 2014 and September 2016 of the place where the bone fragments were retrieved from the Kaeng Krachan reservoir in Phetchaburi province. He said it was about 700 to 1,000 metres from the park office and a cluster of tourist bungalows. "No one could have committed any nefarious activities there," he said.