THAILAND: Disappeared remembered with planting of tree

(Hong Kong, August 30, 2007) The families of “disappeared” persons, human rights defenders and others are on Thursday gathering in Bangkok to plant a tree in remembrance of the missing.

The “Tree of Life” event is being held in front of the Grand Auditorium at Thammasat University to mark the international day of the disappeared.

Short speeches by family members and a university vice rector will be followed by the tree planting and five minutes of silence to remember those persons who have been taken away and never returned again.

The full details of the programme follow.

“We urge all persons in Bangkok who are able to attend this important gathering to please do so,” Basil Fernando, executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, said.

The Hong Kong-based regional rights group has for a number of years documented, advocated and reported on disappearances in Thailand, including the abduction of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit by police in Bangkok in 2004, and cases in the south.

It has also supported similar movements and activities in other countries, including the building of a monument to the disappeared near Colombo in Sri Lanka, where tens of thousands were abducted in the late 1980s.

“Symbolic actions are very important in all cases of gross human rights abuse, but especially where disappearances are concerned,” Fernando said.

“This is because unlike in other cases, the families of disappearance victims are literally left with nothing of the person to hold onto after they have been taken away,” he said.

“So whether it is the planting of a tree or the erecting of some other symbol, each and every such action serves in some small way to fill a little of the enormous empty space left behind by the loss of these loved ones,” Fernando observed.

On March 12, the third anniversary of Somchai’s abduction, the AHRC requested the governor of Bangkok, Apirak Kosayodhin, to permit the construction of a marker in the place where he was last seen being forced into a car by a group of police.

“Mr. Apirak responded positively to our request but has not yet acted on our further suggestions,” Fernando said.

“We are hoping that he will find the time to take up the matter in the near future, as we feel that a small structure in the place of Somchai’s abduction would be of significance not only to the family in his case but to those of all persons in Thailand who have been forcibly disappeared,” he added.

Thailand has not yet indicated whether or not it intends to join a new international law on forced disappearances.

It has no domestic law to prohibit such abductions: the five perpetrators in Somchai’s case were charged only with coercion and gang robbery; only one was found guilty on one count, and has been freed pending appeal.

The AHRC has set up a page with the details of some of the persons known to have been forcibly disappeared in Thailand during recent years:

In a statement to mark the day for the disappeared, the organisation–together with a group of human rights defenders from throughout the region–said that the Asian region as a whole had failed to properly address the practice of forced disappearances.

The full statement can be read here:


30th August, 2007 10:00-11:40am.

At the Historical Sculpture Plaza (in front of the Grand Auditorium), Thammasat University, Bangkok


Opening speech by Dr. Parinya Thewanarumitkul
Vice Rector of Student Affairs, Thammasart University

Speech by Representatives of the families of the Disappeared

Reading of the joint statement by the Representatives of the families of the Disappeared

Music by the Hope Family

Reading of Poems in memory of the Disappeared

Planting the Tree of Life

Minutes of Silence in memory of the Disappeared

Organized by: Thammasat University, Working Group on Justice for Peace, Asian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International Thailand, Human Rights Watch, Non Violence International Southeast Asia, Cross Cultural Foundation, Union for Civil Liberty, Relatives of the disappeared of the southern unrest, Relatives of the disappeared of the Black May, Campaign Committee for Human Rights, Young People for Democracy Movement (YPD)

* For more information please contact Ms. Kwanravee Wangudom Tel. 081-4543560 or Ms. Diana Sarosi at 089-1647255.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PL-033-2007
Countries : Thailand,
Campaigns : Somchai Neelaphaijit
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions, Human rights defenders,