UPDATE (Thailand): EU gets questioned over missing Thai human rights lawyer case 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-081-2006
ISSUES: Enforced disappearances and abductions,

[RE: FA-06-2004: THAILAND: A human rights lawyer Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit missing… UP-20-2005: THAILAND: Human rights lawyer still missing after nearly one year; Action needed today to have case transferred; UP-24-2005: THAILAND: Thai minister refuses to act on missing human rights lawyer case; UP-37-2005: Thai PM orders action on missing human rights lawyer, while court hears of torture; UP-45-2005: Wife of missing human rights lawyer intimidated; UP-49-2005: THAILAND: Government commits to giving witness protection to missing lawyer’s family; UP-89-2005: THAILAND: Repeated failed commitment to assign Department of Special Investigation to Somchai case; UP-107-2005: THAILAND: Special call for observers to attend September 7, 8 & 9 court hearings over missing human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit… UP-130-2005: THAILAND: Constant changes of prosecuting attorneys in Somchai’s case undermine judicial process… UP-004-2006: THAILAND: Verdict in case of missing human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit due on January 12; UP-015-2006: THAILAND: Minister of Justice must clarify continued contradictions after verdict in Somchai Neelaphaijit case; UP-061-2006: THAILAND: First call for special investigation chief to resign over Somchai case]
UP-081-2006: THAILAND: EU gets questioned over missing Thai human rights lawyer case

THAILAND: Disappearance; extrajudicial killing; attacks on human rights defenders; impunity

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased to inform you that the case of missing human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit, has been put before the European Union (EU). Two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have asked the EU what action it is taking on the case, as well as torture and other human rights abuses in Thailand. This is an important development at a time that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has failed to make progress in the case: the AHRC has been calling for its director to resign over this failure (UP-061-2006). Intervention by the EU at this time will put more pressure on the government to respond to this call.

On 10 April 2006, MEPs Jean Lambert from the UK and Frithjof Schmidt from Germany submitted priority written questions to the EU Council and European Commission over the failure of the government of Thailand to locate Somchai. The questions brought attention to the shortfalls of the government in failing in its repeated commitments to solve the case. They also point to the investigations into the abduction as “seriously flawed”.

Among the MEPs questions were whether the EU has asked the government of Thailand why it has failed to solve the case despite repeated promises to do so and whether it has communicated concerns over threats to witnesses in the case, such as Angkhana, Somchai’s wife. The full text of the questions is given below.

This news should be a wake-up call to the government of Thailand. It should understand that it will gain nothing from a continued cover-up, and that questions will continue to be asked, from more and more quarters, until there are satisfactory answers. The government has admitted its obligations to deal with this case, but it has failed to do so in any credible way.


[Note: This is the text of the question to the EU Council. The question to the Commission is virtually the same, but substituting “Council” for “Commission”.]

Priority written question to the Council of the European Union (Rule 110[4])

The case of Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit

Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit, the renowned Thai human rights lawyer was abducted by a group of police on 12 March 2004 and later killed. He was advocating strongly for the lifting of martial law in the south of Thailand and had publicly accused the police of brutally torturing and illegally detaining persons there. Since his disappearance, his widow, Mrs. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, has become a tireless campaigner for justice and is facing death threats due to her work. Both have been awarded with national and international prices for their engagement.  However, the Government of Thailand has failed in its repeated commitments to solve the disappearance of Mr. Somchai. A seriously flawed investigation and prosecution resulted in only one of five accused police officers being convicted in connection with his disappearance. He was sentenced to three years in jail on 12 January 2006 for coercion: Thailand has no law prohibiting forced disappearance. One of the other four officers–the suspected ringleader–has been promoted. Under public pressure, the prime minister admitted publicly to having information that Mr. Somchai had been abducted and killed by the police, and said that further inquiries by the Department of Special Investigation would result in murder charges being laid by the end of February. However, there has been little progress since, and Mrs. Angkhana and other human rights defenders have accused the head of the investigation team of deliberately obstructing the ongoing search.

Is the Council aware of this forced disappearance, and the continued criminal investigation? Has it asked the Government of Thailand why it has failed to solve the case despite repeated promises to do so either directly or via bilateral or ASEAN-level dialogue? Has the Council communicated its concern over the security threats to Mrs. Angkhana to the Government of Thailand? How is the Council ensuring the application of the Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in relation to this case, particularly through encouraging appropriate action by domestic “Paris Principles” agencies? How is it ensuring the application of the Guidelines on Torture in relation to the cases and issues of concern that led to Mr. Somchai’s abduction? Has the Council considered the implications on the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Sales of the allegations of systemic torture in Thailand that have been made by Mr. Somchai and others, and has it taken any concrete steps to insure the application of the Code?

Jean Lambert
Frithjof Schmidt
Date:  10.04.06


Please write a letter to the Caretaker Minister of Justice (who is also Interim Prime Minister) to bring to his attention that the case of Somchai Neelaphaijit is now being taken up by the EU. Please urge him to request that the director-general of the DSI resign over his failure to solve the case, as a clear signal to the EU and international community that the government of Thailand will not tolerate a cover-up in this and other human rights cases. Please also press for the government of Thailand to ratify the Convention against Torture, as it has also repeatedly promised to do, without further unnecessary delay.


To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear Pol. Gen. Chidchai

THAILAND: European Union takes up case of Somchai Neelaphaijit

I am writing to draw your attention to the fact that the European Union (EU) is now taking up the case of Somchai Neelaphaijit due to the government of Thailand’s persistent and abject failure to solve his disappearance.

On 10 April 2006, MEPs Jean Lambert (UK) and Frithjof Schmidt (Germany) submitted priority written questions to the EU Council and European Commission, highlighting the shortfalls of your government in failing to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation of Somchai’s disappearance.  They have now asked of the EU the very questions that national and international human rights organisations have asked time and time again, but which your government has failed to answer. These include, why your government has failed to solve the case despite repeated promises to do so, whether sufficient measures have been taken to ensure the safety of Mrs. Angkhana, and other witnesses to the case, and what is the implication of systemic torture as used by the security forces in Thailand for EU-Thai relations.

This latest development does nothing good for your government’s international reputation, and unless you show sincerity in dealing with this case and the related issues, it will only get worse. You have had ample time and opportunity to make progress and genuinely deal with human rights problems in Thailand, but to date have little to show for all this.

I call upon you to take two important steps now to demonstrate that you are serious about this case and the related issues:

1. Remove the director-general of the Department of Special Investigation, Pol. Gen. Sombat Amornvivat, from his post. I believe that for as long as this officer is the head of that department, the case will not be solved. He is directly connected to its failure. His continued tenure is a growing embarrassment for Thailand and for your government. Please appoint someone more suitable for dealing with special human rights investigations.

2. Ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment without further unnecessary delay. The government of Thailand has made repeated commitments over some years that it would ratify this crucial international law. There has been no reason earlier, and nor is there one now, to further delay ratification. Doing so would instead garner Thailand deserved international recognition and praise.

The EU will respond to the submission by the two MEPs within three weeks. The matter will not end there. You will understand that if the case of Somchai Neelaphaijit is not properly addressed, together with the related institutional issues, there may be serious long-term detrimental effects to Thailand’s international relations with Europe. I trust that you will take the necessary steps to prevent that from being the case.

Yours sincerely,


Pol. Gen. Chidchai Wanasatidya
Caretaker Minister of Justice & Interim Prime Minister

Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
E-mail: govspkman@mozart.inet.co.th


Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi
Bangkok 11120
Tel: +662 502 6776/ 8223
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
Email: ommoj@moj.go.thchidchai@moj.go.th


1. Dr. Kantathi Suphamongkhon
Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
443 Sri Ayudhya Road
Bangkok 10400
Fax: +662 643 5320
Tel: +662 643 5333
Email: kantathi@thaigov.go.thommfa@mfa.go.thpermsec@mfa.go.th

2. Prof. Saneh Chamarik
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathum Wan District
Bangkok 10300
Tel: +662 2219 2980
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
E-mail: commission@nhrc.or.th or saneh@nhrc.or.th

3. Prof. Manfred Nowak
Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture
Attn: Safir Syed
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9230
E-mail: ssyed@ohchr.org

4. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Att: Melinda Ching Simon
Room 1-040
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88
E-mail: MChingSimon@ohchr.org

5. Mr. Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
Attn: Lydie Ventre
Room 3-016
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155
Email: lventre@ohchr.org

6. Mr. Stephen J. Toope
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Attn: Tanya Smith
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 917 9176
E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-081-2006
Countries : Thailand,
Campaigns : Somchai Neelaphaijit
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions,