Phetchaburi: The Phetchaburi Provincial Court on Tuesday dismissed the case against Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, a former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, and four alleged accomplices for the murder of Karen rights defender and politician Tatkamol Ob-om in early September 2011.
Mr Chaiwat was the first defendant in the case, along with alleged accomplices Sak Plabngam, accused of being the gunman; Chuchai Sukprasert, a former member of Bang Kao tambon administration organisation in Cha-am district; and two park employees, Tawatchai Thongsuk and Duang Sangthong.
Hope fades a little bit every day for Pinnapa Preuksapan, wife of Karen human rights activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen. It is believed that Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, could be holding valuable information about the case. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
The suspects were all charged with premeditated murder but denied it. The court ruled the circumstantial evidence presented to it did not carry enough weight and ordered the case dismissed.
Prosecutors took the case to Phetchaburi Provincial Court on Dec 29, 2011, accusing the five of conspiring to murder Tatkamol, a Pheu Thai Party candidate in Phetchaburi running for the House and a staunch campaigner for the right of Karen ethnic people to live in Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Tatkamol's campaign for Karen rights led to him to be banned from entering Kaeng Krachan National Park on the grounds he had disrupted ethnic minority development in the park, resulting in a conflict between him and Mr Chaiwat and park officials, according to a police investigation.
Tatkamol was shot dead on the Phetkasem Highway in Phetchaburi's Ban Lat district on Sept 10, 2011 while he was driving his car.
Speaking after the ruling, Mr Chaiwat said he and the four other park officials felt relieved their saga has now come to an end. "We're extremely happy with the ruling," Mr Chaiwat said. Mr Chaiwat threatened to sue anyone who tries to raise the case to discredit him and his staff.
The former parks head has also been accused of being complicit in the April disappearance of activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen, who also spoke up for Karen villagers in the park.
Police cleared him, though the court has agreed to allow an appeal against a case brought by Billy's wife alleging he was unlawfully detained.
Missing Karen activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen (left) and former Kaeng Krachan National Park chief Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn. Mr Chaiwat seems to be the last person to have seen the Karen activist, who disappeared last April under suspicious circumstances. (File photos)