11 July 2024

Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has submitted additional evidence to the Office of the Attorney-General related to the enforced disappearance of ethnic Karen human rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen.

DSI Director-General Traiyarit Temahiwong said today (Tuesday) that officials in charge of the case have questioned seven witnesses, to find additional evidence on the DNA of the victim’s mother and from bone fragments found in a burned oil drum, salvaged from a river in the Kaeng Krachan national park, which is expected to be found to belong to the missing victim.

Among those questioned by the DSI officials were foreign scientific experts involved in the collection of evidence related to the case and in determining the blood relationship between Porlajee and his relatives through analysis of their DNA, he added.

Chairman of Cross Cultural Foundation Surapong Kongchantuk, who has been involved in concluding the enforced disappearance case, said that the police in charge of the case decided to charge four suspects, but the prosecutors agreed to indict only some of them and only on certain charges and had demanded additional evidence from the DSI.

Meanwhile, Porlajee’s widow, Pinnapa Prueksaphan, called on the DSI chief to express her appreciation for the DSI in pursuing the case.

She said that she trusts the DSI and expects justice for the victim and her family, noting that the case has dragged on since Porlajee disappeared without a trace on April 17th, 2014, when he was last seen at a checkpoint in Kaeng Krachan national park.

One of the key suspects in the case is Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, then chief of the national park. In March last year, he was dismissed from government service after the National Anti-Corruption Commission found him at fault for demolishing and burning the house and other property of an ethnic Karen elder inside the national park, in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

Thailand’s Parliament passed a draft of the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill in its first reading in September 2021. It has yet to go through further readings.

Calls for such a bill to be passed has intensified over the past few years, in light of highly publicised cases such as the police killing of a drug suspect in August 2021, and the disappearance of Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Phnom Penh in July 2020.