Thailand: ‘No Justice’ in Lawyer’s Disappearance

Nontarat Phaicharoen
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160311-TH-seminar-1000 Angkhana Neelapaijit (center) speaks at a seminar in Bangkok marking the 12th anniversary of the disappearance of her husband, Somchai Neelapaijit, March 11, 2016.
Nontarat Phaicharoen/ BenarNew

International human rights activists joined the wife of a missing Thai attorney Friday in commemorating his disappearance 12 years ago and calling for laws to prevent such occurrences.

Somchai Neelapaijit was heading a high-profile lawsuit alleging torture of Muslim suspects by police in Thailand’s Deep South when he was pulled from his car on Ramkhamhaeng Road in Bangkok on March 12, 2004, never to be seen again.

“We must not let those who lost a missing person or the victim of a forced disappearance face this alone,” Somchai’s wife, Angkhana Neelapaijit, told a seminar marking the anniversary at Sukosol Hotel in Bangkok.

“As for me, it’s been 12 years struggling for justice in Somchai’s case as well as for the victims and witnesses of enforced disappearances in Thailand. I confirm that in cases of forced disappearances, Thailand’s justice is no justice,” she said.

Representatives of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Justice for Peace Foundation participated in the discussion, pressing for passage of a Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill.

“The Thai authorities’ failure to treat Somchai’s ‘disappearance’ as a likely abduction and murder undermines their credibility,” Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday.

“Because Thailand doesn’t recognize enforced disappearance as a crime, the authorities have avoided inquiring too closely into those who actually ordered Somchai’s abduction and know what happened to him.”

In January 2006, the government of then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that government officials were involved in Somchai’s abduction and killing, the HRW statement said.

But in late December 2015, the Thai Supreme Court acquitted five police officers who had been implicated in Somchai’s abduction, ruling that the evidence against the defendants was too weak.

Last March, Angkhana met with Department of Special Investigation Director-General Suwana Suwanjutha in Bangkok to request that the agency launch a new investigation, but little progress was made.

“DSI officials said they would contact witnesses for clues and would discuss with me when they could establish sufficient evidence,” Angkhana, a member of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission, told BenarNews in January.

A Thai government representative told the gathering Friday that his department was working with “sincere intentions” on laws to prevent forced disappearances and protect human rights.

“When these kinds of incidents occur, we are never happy. We do not want these incidents to happen,” said Somchai Komkrit, directory of Rights and Liberties Protection Department at the Ministry of Justice.


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