The thwarting of justice continues in the case of disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit. Having postponed reading of the verdict in the appeal case concerning the conviction of one policeman from last year, the criminal court has again ordered a further postponement on technical grounds. Meanwhile, the family of the victim is again facing threats in connection with the case. Despite reporting the threats to the authorities, at time of writing they had received no assistance, and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely concerned for their safety.
CASE UPDATE :
On 21 January 2011 at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok, representatives of all parties involved in the criminal proceedings in the case of the 12 March 2004 forcible disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit gathered to hear the verdict of the Appeal Court. However, for technical reasons the verdict was not read for a second time, and instead a new date for reading the verdict was set for February 7. Yet, it appears unlikely that the verdict will also be read on that date, and the Appeal Court’s ruling may not become known until much later in the year. Details of the further postponements in the case and consequences are contained in a new statement by the AHRC: AHRC-STM-020-2011
The AHRC is particularly concerned about the further delays in the case because they coincide with renewed threats to Somchai’s wife, Angkhana Neelaphaijit, and her family. The CCTV outside the front of the Neelaphaijit house has been broken for an extended period. The Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Ministry of Justice has taken responsibility for the family’s security, but has taken no action to fix it.
Before the first scheduled reading of the appeal verdict back in September 2010, a large bone which appeared to come from a cow or other animal of similar size was left in front of the Neelaphaijit house. The bone was too big for a dog to carry or to have been left somehow by accident. Angkhana reported the presence of the bone to the DSI. Then, between 18 and 20 January 2011 she received approximately 20 phone calls daily in which the caller did not identify himself or otherwise speak and then hung up. When she attempted to trace the calls, she was unable to do so. She reported these phone calls to the police and the DSI on 22 January 2011; however, at time of writing no action had been taken in response.
These are classic methods of intimidation in Thailand, and are clearly directed at threatening Angkhana and her children at a time that the case is back in the courts and attracting public attention. Therefore, the AHRC is urging all concerned persons and agencies to intervene on their behalf and to keep the case high in the public attention.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION :
On 12 March 2011, it will be seven years since a group of police abducted Somchai Neelaphaijit from a busy Bangkok street. From the beginning, the attempt to hold the perpetrators of his disappearance responsible has been marred by inefficiency and injustice. The Asian Human Rights Commission has repeatedly called on responsible parties within the government to protect Angkhana and the other members of the Neelaphaijit family and to ensure that the verdict of the Appeal Court is read as soon as is legally possible; however, all indications are that the case will continue to be characterized by inaction and obscurity.
Full information on the case of the disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit and the actions of the Asian Human Rights Commission and our partners can be found on the Somchai campaign webpage, which has been moved to a new address: http://www.humanrights.asia/campaigns/somchai-neelaphaijit
SUGGESTED ACTION :
Please write letters to the authorities listed below, urging them to investigate the intimidation and threats on the Neelaphaijit family and to ensure justice in the case of the disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit.
Please be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers and on human rights defenders, and to the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia concerning the case.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
THAILAND: Threats to family and continued deferral of justice in the case of Somchai Neelaphaijit
Victims: Angkhana Neelaphaijit, chairperson of the Working Group on Justice for Peace, wife of disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, and family
Dates of incidents: Mid-September 2010 and 18-20 January 2011
Place of incident: Soi Isaraphap 11, Isaraphap Road, Thonburi, Bangkok
I am writing to express my deep concern about ongoing intimidation of Angkhana Neelaphaijit and other members of the Neelaphaijit family in Bangkok that is apparently connected to the planned reading of the verdict of the appeal in the case of disappeared lawyer, husband of Angkhana, Somchai Neelaphaijit (black case no.1952/2547; red case no. 48/2549). The continued delays in the reading of the verdict are of concern not only because they constitute a grave deferral of justice but also because so long as the case drags on in court so too do the threats against the family continue.
Briefly, I am informed that before the first scheduled reading of the verdict in September 2010, a large bone which appeared to come from a cow or other animal of similar size was left in front of the Neelaphaijit family house. The bone was too big for a dog to carry or to have been left somehow by accident. Angkhana reported the presence of the bone to the Department of Special Investigation, Ministry of Justice, which has responsibility for her security. Not only has the DSI apparently taken no action, in addition I have been informed that it has not repaired the CCTV outside the front of the Neelaphaijit house, which has been broken for an extended period.
Then, prior to the second scheduled reading of the verdict, between 18 and 20 January 2011, Angkhana received approximately 20 phone calls daily in which the caller did not identify himself or otherwise speak and then hung up. When she attempted to trace the call, she was unable to do so. She reported these phone calls to the police and to the DSI on 22 January 2011, but again no action was taken.
These blatant attempts to intimidate Angkhana and the other members of the Neelaphaijit family coincide with the repeated postponement in the hearing of the appeal court in the cases related to his disappearance in 2004. The third scheduled attempt to read the verdict is set for 7 February 2011. I am gravely concerned about the safety of Angkhana and other members of the Neelaphaijit family as this date approaches, especially as it may be that the court again postpones the reading of the verdict on convenient technical grounds.
Accordingly, I urge that a special investigation be made into the threats against Angkhana and family without delay. Furthermore, Angkhana, her family and the witnesses and relatives of victims in all cases where complaints have been lodged against the police should be provided protection under the Witness Protection Act BE 2546 (2003).
I take this opportunity to add that it is an indictment on the government of Thailand and the state of human rights in that country that even though Angkhana is a well-known human rights defender and a person in the public eye, she and her family are still exposed to these types of blatant attempts to intimidate and silence her. The extent to which this sort of behaviour can occur in high-profile cases indicates how much more people who have no connections, people who are not known outside their localities, can be threatened and if necessary, targeted for attacks, killing and disappearances. It also shows how weak the witness protection system remains in Thailand, and how little security anyone in the country has after making complaints against public authorities.
Lastly, I join in calls for the case of disappeared lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit to be once and for all resolved. At a minimum, the reading of the Appeal Court verdict must not be delayed again. Although nearly seven years have passed and the authorities in Thailand might have expected that his case would be forgotten, it has not: it remains an international embarrassment for Thailand and will continue to remain one until the police responsible for his abduction and killing are brought to justice, instead of being allowed to continue serving as so-called officers of the law.
I look forward to your prompt action.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Fax: +66 2 288 4000 ext. 4025
Tel: +66 2 288 4000
2. Mr. Chaowarat Chanweerakul
Minister of Interior
Office of the Ministry of Interior
Atsadang Road, Ratchabophit
Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200
Fax: +66 2 226 4371/ 222 8866
Tel: +66 2 224 6320/ 6341
3. Mr. Peeraphan Saleeratwipak
Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi 11120
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
Tel: +662 502 6776/ 8223
4. Mr. Kasit Piromya
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affair
443 Sri Ayudhya Road
Fax: +662 643 5318
Tel: +662 643 5333
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)