11 July 2024

Former Kaeng Krachan national park chief Chaiwat Limlikhit-akson and the other three suspects plan to visit the hanging bridge, in the park in Phetchaburi province this Saturday, to vow to the spirit there that the four of them did not kill Karen community rights activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, as charged by the Department of Special Investigation.

The four suspects have been released by the Criminal Court for Corruption Cases, each on 800,000 baht bail, on the condition that they do not leave the country.

After being bailed, Chaiwat told the media that he ordered the release of Billy after his brief arrest for collecting wild honey in the park. He claimed that he reprimanded the Karen activist for trying to bribe him with five bottles of wild honey, an offer he rejected.

Chaiwat also claimed that there were some elements who wanted him out of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation because of his work in protecting the forests and wildlife.

The site, where Chaiwat and his three men plan to make their vow, is where DSI officials found a burned 200-litre oil drum submerged in the river near the bridge.  Charred bone fragments were found in the old drum which were shown to match Billy’s maternal DNA markers.

Chaiwat, Krisanapong Chitthet, Boontaen Busarakham and Thanaseth Chaemthet are charged with premediated murder, robbery, coercion, illegal detention, malfeasance in office and tampering with evidence in connection with Bully’s disappearance and murder.

Meanwhile, a well-informed DSI source told Thai PBS that they do not believe Billy was released after his arrest due to conflicting statements provided by two student trainees, who were at the Kaeng Krachan national park with Chaiwat at the time of Billy’s arrest on April 17th, 2014.

The two students, whose names are withheld, were riding in a second pick-up truck, on their way back to base, with Chaiwat, his men, Billy and a motorcycle in the lead truck.

The male student initially told the original Kaeng Krachan police enquiry officers that he thought he saw Billy ride away on his motorcycle because of his clothes and cotton shoulder bag, commonly used by Karen tribesmen.

In his second statement, given to police in Pathum Thani province, the male student said he didn’t see any car or motorcycle and that he was not sure the pickup truck he was in used the same route through the jungle as the one carrying Chaiwat and Billy.

When pressed by the police interviewer, however, the student claimed he was briefed by Chaiwat about the sequence of events on that day, so that he could tell the police about what had happened. He said he agreed to testify to the police, as briefed by Chaiwat, because he felt indebted to him and his staff for taking good care of the two trainees during their internship at the park.