Ex-park chief Chaiwat says “Charge me alone”
Former chief of Kaeng Krachan national park, Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, said today (Thursday) that he is ready to face charges from the Department of Special Investigation for alleged involvement in the disappearance of Karen activist Polajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen five years ago.
“People are focusing on me. They can charge me, me alone. I can stand it, I can stand being imprisoned, but not three of my men. Don’t drag them into being involved,” said Mr. Chaiwat in an interview with Thai PBS this morning.
Billy was arrested by Kaeng Krachan park officials, led by Chaiwat, on April 17th, 2017 for allegedly illegally collecting wild honey in the park. Mr. Chaiwat later claimed, however, that the human rights defender had been freed on the same day.
At the time of his arrest, Billy was travelling from his village to meet with Karen villagers, about their forced eviction and the burning of their houses and possessions, in preparation for a lawsuit in which Chaiwat was named as one of the defendants.
Mr. Chaiwat expressed doubts about the DSI’s evidence, citing the 200-litre oil drum, which was found on the river bed in the park area. He pointed out that paint was still visible on the oil drum, saying that the oil drum should have corroded after being under water for five years.
The DSI claimed that the two fragments of bone found in the oil drum were tested, by forensic experts from the Central Forensic Science Institute of the Royal Thai Police, and shown to contain DNA which matches DNA samples taken from the victim’s mother.
The DSI is also awaiting the results of more tests from the institute on about 20 more bone fragments found in the river bed close to the oil drum. The department is expected to conclude their investigation into Billy’s murder in three months.