Den Kamlae and the Fate of the Disappeared: Justice Still Out of Reach
It’s been over a year since the late afternoon on 16 April 2016 when Den Kamlae went missing on his way to collect forest items. Material evidence was later discovered between 23-25 March 2017. Today, these important materials are still under examination by forensic scientists and the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS).
The life of Den Kamlae was shaped by conflict and difficult environments; from childhood poverty he fought to establish justice in society in adulthood. He continued the fight and joined the Communist Party of Thailand, and later on played a prominent role in demanding land rights for his community together with the Esaan Land Reform Network and P-Move.
Cases of torture and enforced disappearance occur constantly in Thai society. In the recent past, many community leaders and social activists, including Somchai Neelapaijit and “Billy” Polajee Rakchongcharoen, have faced the same fate, ending up as “victims of injustice”. Although the cause of Den Kamlae’s disappearance has not been determined, it is certain that he did not get lost in the forest, nor get injured by wild animals.
The aforementioned does not state that the disappearance of Den Kamlae is connected to any individuals or agencies. However, there are certain observations about the evidence discovered in March. The scene where the materials were found was steep, and the placement as well as the conditions of them are time-inconsistent.
Thus, we are urging relevant agencies to hasten the examination process truthfully, and are calling for another inspection of the scene by experts, since there are other materials such as a shirt, hat, spade, and particularly bones from a skeleton – besides the skull – that have been found, among other items.
Furthermore, on 9th January 2012, Thailand signed the Convention Against Torture (CAT) to express its intention in promoting, protecting and ensuring human rights. Subsequently, human rights organizations together with the Ministry of Justice joined forces to push the draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act forward. The draft was ultimately rejected by the National Legislative Assembly. Nonetheless, this draft is the only hope for the families of disappeared persons to access justice.
It is time for Thai society to understand the crucial issues of torture and enforced disappearance, as well as to realize the necessity of law enforcement to solve such issues.
On the occasion of the 1 year anniversary of the disappearance of Den Kamlae, we would like to take the opportunity to pay our respect to other activists who shared the same courage to convey justice to society that led them meet their unfortunate fates. Their selfless dedication and purpose will live on. The truth will be exactly revealed in the end.
Organizers and participants to the event to commemorate 1 year of the disappearance of Den Kamlae