DSI to announce breakthrough in investigation of Karen activist Billy’s disappearance

The Department of Special Investigation is due to hold a news conference today (Tuesday) to announce the recent discovery of important evidence which may shed light on the mysterious disappearance of Karen human rights activist, Polajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, about five years ago.

An informed DSI source told Thai PBS that, in May this year, DSI investigators found a 200-litre oil drum near the hanging bridge in Kaeng Krachan national park which, when tested, was found to contain human bones.

Billy was last seen on April 17th 2014 when he was arrested, by then Kaeng Krachan national park superintendent Chaiwat Limlikit-akson, for allegedly collecting wild honey illegally. Chaiwat later claimed that Billy had been released the same day, but there are no official records of his arrest or release.

At the time of his disappearance, Billy was travelling from his village to meet with ethnic Karen villagers about their forced eviction and the burning of their houses and possessions in preparation for a trial in which Chaiwat was a defendant.

Billy’s wife, Mrs. Pinnapa “Meenor” Prueksapan, along with representatives of human rights groups, subsequently lodged a petition with the Phetchaburi provincial court to open an inquiry into Billy’s disappearance, but the court rejected the petition on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to show that he had actually disappeared.

In April last year, however, the DSI accepted Billy’s case for investigation as a special case.

Pol Lt-Col Chen Kanchanapat, director of the DSI’s special operations directorate and who is in charge of Billy’s case, told a seminar at Thammasat University on August 30th that the DSI had evidence to prove where the Karen activist had been for the past five years.

“I believe everyone wants to know where Billy has gone. They want legal action to be taken against the perpetrators, but it is known where Billy went and, if the perpetrators are prosecuted and confess in court, they may get just a one-year suspended prison term,” said the officer.

He added, however, that he did not want the case to end in such a way that the perpetrators evade justice.

With the evidence to prove Billy’s disappearance, he said the perpetrators might face pre-mediated murder charges and face the death penalty.

On August 27th, Billy’s family, a lawyer from the Human Rights Lawyers Association and the Cross Cultural Foundation filed a request with the Phetchaburi provincial court to have the human rights defender declared legally dead. The court has scheduled the inquiry for October 28th.



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