Murder charges laid in 'Billy' case

Murder charges laid in 'Billy' case

Karen activist's wife welcomes DSI move

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has pressed six charges against former Kaeng Krachan National Park chief, Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, including premeditated murder and concealing the body of Karen activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen.

Surapong Kongchanthuk, a lawyer for Porlajee's wife, said at the DSI yesterday that officials had charged Mr Chaiwat and three others with premeditated murder, unlawful detention, physical assault, robbery, body concealment and malfeasance.

"The DSI case has drawn global attention because Billy was a human rights activist who did not have any enemies. The decision to press charges shows the international community that the Thai justice system meets international standards. It gives confidence to people working in the area of human rights," Mr Surapong said.

Pol Lt Col Shane Kanchanapach, head of the DSI's Bureau of Regional Operations, said 17 folders containing the investigators' case report were to be delivered to the Office of the Attorney-General yesterday, and public prosecutors would have 40 days to bring about an indictment.

"The DSI has done its best in gathering witnesses and evidence in the case," he said.

Pinnapa Prueksapan, Porlajee's wife, said she was satisfied with the DSI's casework, and that it showed that the justice system actually does work. She said the Justice Ministry was taking good care of her, and she had received no threats.

Porlajee, 31, disappeared in April 2014. He was helping his relatives sue Mr Chaiwat over the torching of their bamboo huts and rice barns during a series of forest evictions in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province.

Porlajee was last seen alive on April 17, 2014, after Mr Chaiwat and officials under him arrested the Karen activist for allegedly collecting wild honey in a protected forest.

Mr Chaiwat and three others surrendered to the DSI last month. They denied all charges.

The DSI sought for them to be remanded in custody, but the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases released them on bail of 800,000 baht each.

The DSI earlier said it had found convincing evidence in the national park in Phetchaburi province, and believed Porlajee had been murdered and dumped in the Kaeng Krachan dam reservoir.

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