Park chief quizzed in Billy case

Park chief quizzed in Billy case

PHETCHABURI — Police investigating the disappearance of ethnic Karen activist Por Cha Lee "Billy" Rakcharoen have questioned the Kaeng Krachan National Park chief, who is locked in a legal dispute with Karen villagers over forest dwellings.

Kaeng Krachan National Park chief Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn

Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn was summonsed by Kaeng Krachan police for questioning on Wednesday morning as he was among the last persons known to have seen and talked to Mr Por Cha Lee before he went missing on Thursday, April 17.

After a three hour-long inquiry, Mr Chaiwat told reporters he was called in so that the police could investigate facts in the Por Cha Lee case. He said he had nothing to worry about and answered questions regarding the circumstances in the same way he did with the media earlier. 

“Personnally I think Billy’s disappearance was probably planned and well prepared,” Mr Chaiwat said, “I believe he is still alive and still in the national park area.”

The 30-year-old activist and leader of Ban Bangkloy village disappeared after he was briefly detained by officials of Kaeng Krachan National Park last Thursday for allegedly carrying illegally harvested wild honey. 

He was on his way to meet ethnic Karen villagers and activists to prepare for a court hearing in a lawsuit that accuses park officials of burning and destroying the homes and property of more than 20 families in the area in 2011, as well as to collect signatures for a royal appeal over Mr Chaiwat’s alleged abuse of power. 

Mr Chaiwat earlier said he personally met and reprimanded Mr Por Cha Lee. He claimed the villager was released shortly after his arrest but his whereabouts are unknown since then. 

Mr Chaiwat was charged with masterminding the murder of a Karen rights activist in 2011 in a pending court case. 

A force of 200 police and military personnel began another search for the father of five along routes in Kaeng Krachan National Park Wednesday afternoon but no signs of Mr Por Cha Lee were detected. 

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