Prosecutors drop 'Billy' murder charges against park officials

Prosecutors drop 'Billy' murder charges against park officials

Wife still has option of suing them in criminal court

Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, one of the four suspects in connection with the death of Karen activisit Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, leaves the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on Nov 25, 2019, after it dismissed a petition seeking the revocation of his bail. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, one of the four suspects in connection with the death of Karen activisit Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, leaves the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on Nov 25, 2019, after it dismissed a petition seeking the revocation of his bail. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

State prosecutors have dropped the murder charges against Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, the former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, and three others accused in the death of the Karen rights activist known as "Billy", and they now face only minor charges, a source at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said on Friday.

The source said prosecutors led by Chawarat Wongthanasomboon notified DSI director-general Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang in a letter on Thursday of their recommendation that the state drop the serious charges against the four suspects accused of killing Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen.

They decided to recommend indicting them only for failing to hand over the Karen activist to police after he was arrested in April 2014 for collecting wild honey in the park, in Kaeng Krachan district of Phetchaburi.

The Karen environmentalist was last seen alive on April 17, 2014 while in the custody of Mr Chaiwat and his subordinates for the alleged honey theft.

The other suspects named in the case are Boontaen Bussarakham, Thanaseth or Pitoon Chaemthes and Krissanapong Jitthes.

The DSI last month pressed six charges against them, including premeditated murder and concealing the body of Billy. The investigating agency then forwarded the evidence in 17 folders to prosecutors.

The files will be sent back to the investigators, according to the source, citing the letter sent by the prosecutors on Thursday. (continues below)

There was no comment available from the DSI chief, but Surapong Kongchanthuk, a lawyer for Billy's wife, Pinnapa Prueksapan, said he hoped the DSI would argue against the decision and demand prosecutors arraign them for murder.

The lawyer said on Friday he was confident prosecutors would reconsider their decision if the DSI argued the point. He reminded them again that the case has received global media attention.

Mr Surapong said if the murder charges are dropped, Billy's wife still had the option of suing them on criminal charges.

He was preparing a briefing for her if she has to fight the case on her own.

Mr Chaiwat and three co-accused surrendered to the DSI in November and denied all charges. The DSI sought their detention in custody, but the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases released them on bail of 800,000 baht each.


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