THAILAND: Angkhana Neelapaijit urges Prime Minister to not allow the culture of impunity in Thailand regarding Disappearance lawyer Somchai 9 years anniversary 

Her Excellency, the Prime Minister, Ms. Yingluck Shnawatra

Dear Madam Prime Minister,

My name is Angkhana Neelapaijit, wife of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit, a human rights lawyer who had given legal aid to alleged offenders in security related cases in Thailand’s Southern Border Provinces. Mr. Somchai was abducted by police officers on 12 March 2004, after he lodged his complaints regarding the alleged abuse of alleged offenders by the police. After the enforced disappearance of Mr. Somchai, the Former Prime Minister, Pol Lt Col Thaksin Shinawatra admitted that he might have died. The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) accepted to work on the case of Mr. Somchai as a special case since 19 July 2005. Pol Gen Sombat Amonrwiwat, former DSI Director General, was the person in charge of the investigation. Eight years past, the case now falls under the charge of the current DSI Director General, Mr. Tharit Pengdit and you, as the PM is the Chairperson of the Committee on Special Cases ex officio. Yet, the investigation has so far born no fruit.

Previously, I have written to inquire the Minister of Justice, Pol Gen Pracha Promnok regarding progress in the investigation of Mr. Somchai’s case. Then, he gave me a one pager summary prepared by DSI indicating that there has been no progress as to the investigation in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. This happens so despite that the case has been handled by DSI for eight years.

Your Excellency, you may not be aware, but the enforced disappearance of Mr. Somchai was the first case of its kind in Thailand that affected parties have been able to get the case prosecuted and indicted. In addition, his case is not just known in Thailand, but all over the world. It is a public case that has massively compromised trust in Thailand’s justice process and the upholding of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand. It has elicited salient attention from national and international rights organizations all along, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since it was a crime of enforced disappearance committed by law enforcement officers. And apart from the five police officers who are the accused in this case, it is believed that a number of high ranking police officers were involved and have not been brought to justice.

Nevertheless, I would like to commend your government for signing a landmark international instrument, the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 9 January 2012. The ascension to the treaty indicates a very important determination to uphold human rights in Thailand through the prevention of enforced disappearance. In addition, in September 2012, the cabinet agreed to provide the amount of 7.5 millions baht as remedies to the family of Mr. Somchai Neelapaijit. In the same occasion, the amount of 500,000 – 7.5 millions baht were provided for 30 families of those disappeared in Southern Border Provinces. It is believed that they were made disappeared by government officers.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation that your government has decided to provide remedies to people whose human rights have been affected by governmental officers including the enforced disappearance cases in the Southern Border Provinces. Remedies are an indispensible right of the victims. But apart from upholding the right to access truth, it is equally important to uphold justice and ensure that there shall be no recurrence of human rights violation. And monetary remedies alone are not enough to erase the trauma and wound in the hearts of the survivors. I fervently believe that only through access to truth and justice that dignity of the survivors shall be restored and it would lead to lasting forgiveness and reconciliation.

I am writing this letter to you as you are the highest leadership of the country and as you are in charge of DSI. I want to bring to your attention the ineffectiveness and unwillingness of the government and DSI to solve the case of Mr. Somchai. It is too obvious that in recent time, DSI has simply been concentrating on political cases, particularly cases against the opposition party, but at the same time, has been neglecting and giving no proper attention to cases that affect ordinary people, even though they are victims of human rights abuse perpetuated by government officers who take side with the government.

Last but not least, I really hope that you as the PM are willing to listen to voice of people who have been abused by governmental officers. The abuses took place during the tenure of those leaderships from the same political party as yours. I sincerely hope that you shall be responsible for what happened and shall not be discriminating in the enforcement of law and will not allow the culture of impunity to perpetuate in Thailand.

Yours sincerely,
Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit

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Document Type : Forwarded Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-FOL-005-2013
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Rule of law,