Cross Cultural Foundation
One year Commemoration , who will be held responsible for the failed investigation of Billy’s disappearance?
For immediate release on16 April 2015
17 April 2015 marks the first year after the enforced disappearance against Pholachi Rakchongcharoen, aka ‘Billy’. It was reported on 18 April 2014 to the police of Kaengkrachan Police Station that Mr. Pholachi had disappeared and his relatives were suspecting that he was a victim of enforced disappearance. The Provincial Police Region 7 was tasked to investigate the case since 10 July 2014. Emerging evidence indicated that the Head of Kaengkrachan National Park, Mr. Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn, was last seen to have Mr. Pholachi in his custody. Mr. Chaiwat, however, claimed that he had Mr. Pholachi released already. Nine months past, no lead of the case has been acquired by the Provincial Police Region 7. There have been some eyewitnesses and circumstantial evidence which lead us to believe that some officials had been involved with Mr. Pholachi’s enforced disappearance and he had not been released as claimed by the Head of Kaengkrachan National Park. It is also possible that his body has been subject to concealment and disposal along with his motorcycle which has been aided by local influential persons.
The disappearance of Mr. Pholachi is a grave human rights violation. It has occurred amidst the vulnerabilities the Karen human rights defenders have to face in their course of their struggle for the right to their land and homes. Indigenous Karen families and community have been dwelling in the Kaengkrachan National Park more than one hundred years since before the area was declared National Park .
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) has been monitoring the investigation of this case by the Royal Thai Police. The Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7 has replied to our inquiry in a letter no. RTP 0022.173/2135 dated 30 March 2015 with a Memo no. RTP 0022 (PB) 63/ 632 dated 2 February 2015. It is stated in the letter that the inquiry officials have concluded the investigation report and has submitted for further investigation to the Secretary General of the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). PACC has received a complaint against Mr. Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn prepared by the Kaengkrachan Police Station since 28 May 2014 (Case no. PACC 2013/57). In a letter from the Commander of the Provincial Police Region 7, it was emphasized that the case was given importance since it garnered attention from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)… But given that an effort has to be made to compile numerous evidence related to the case … The 364 paged investigation report has been submitted for further investigation.
It was revealed to the NHRC’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Political Rights on 29 January 2015 that the police have found credible evidence which indicates that Mr. Pholachi was not released on that day as claimed by the officers of the Kaengkrachan National Park. Two key witnesses in this case have also confirmed the information. Therefore, it can be construed that the National Police Chief has acquired credible information attesting to the fact that Mr. Pholachi was a victim of enforced disappearance and continued to be held in custody of the officials who simply clamed to have not hold him in custody.
As a result of close attention paid to the disappearance of Mr. Pholachi by international and national human rights organizations, the UN Working Committee on Enforced Disappearance and the UN Committee Against Torture, it could be concluded by them that the investigation of the disappearance of Mr. Pholachi or Billy has been proven ineffective and retarded. It may also reflect a lack of efficiency and impartiality. Even though some individual police officials have committed themselves to solve the case, but they have not been given genuine support from the Royal Thai Police.
The submission of the investigation report to PACC is simply an attempt to divert attention from the material facts about the case of the disappearance and to avoid taking their official duties to investigate a case of disappearance. PACC’s investigation shall cover only the abuse of office by officials and it is a separate issue from the investigation of enforced disappearance. CrCF urges the National Police Chief sees to it that the investigation will press ahead effectively and promptly. A genuine effort must be made to resolve the disappearance of Mr. Pholachi or Billy. Meanwhile, his relatives must be kept informed of progress of the investigation regularly.
Nevertheless, the investigation has met with challenges including local influence, fear among witnesses, geography of the crime, etc. But since the police is essentially instrumental to upholding the justice process and has to be relied on by the surviving relatives, friends and other civil society organizations inside and outside the country. They can also be instrumental to proving sincerity of Thailand in genuinely solving the important case including the police’s investigation.
In addition, the cases of enforced disappearance of Lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit and Mr. Billy are stumbling on legal restrictions which provide for impunity and their relatives have no access to remedies. CrCF thus proposes to the Thai government that they must ensure that legal provisions are made to specifically criminalize enforced disappearance even though the remains of the disappeared could not be found.
For more information, contact Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Cross Cultural Foundation, phone 02-6934939