UPDATE (Thailand): Final special call for observers to attend court hearings over missing human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-145-2005
ISSUES: Enforced disappearances and abductions, Human rights defenders, Impunity,

[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-133-2005: THAILAND: Sixth special call for observers to attend court hearings over missing human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit]
UP-145-2005: THAILAND: Final special call for observers to attend court hearings over missing human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit

THAILAND: Disappearances; Attacks on human rights defenders; Impunity

Dear friends,

The hearings in the trial of five police officers in connection with the disappearance of prominent Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit at the Criminal Court in Bangkok are scheduled to be completed next week, from tomorrow, November 29, to Friday, December 2. Please note that November 29 & 30 are confirmed dates. Hearings will be held on December 1 & 2 subject to remaining defence witnesses.

During the last week the fourth and fifth defendants spoke, after which a number of other police and lawyers spoke for the defence. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has also again criticized the poor work of the lawyers for the prosecution, including both the public prosecutors and the lawyers for the wife of the victim, who is a joint plaintiff in the hearings: see AHRC-PL-82-2005; see also UP-130-2005.

As this is the last week of the scheduled hearings, the AHRC is yet again calling for a strong presence of observers in the court. Please refer to our first call (UP-107-2005) for an explanation of the case and reasons that observers are very important in the court.

Summaries of witness testimonies from the most recent hearings, November 15-18, are given below. As in most previous calls, these are followed by information on the place and time of the hearings.

For all links and further information, visit the new Somchai Neelaphaijit webpageestablished by the AHRC: www.ahrchk.net/somchai.


November 15
Police Sergeant Rundorn Sithiket, the fourth defendant, who is an investigator with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said that on the day that Somchai disappeared (12 March 2004) he had met with the second defendant (his superior) and two other police officers to plan to search for and arrest a suspect. He went in search of the person unsuccessfully between 8am and 3pm in the area of Charoenkrung Road [where Somchai was also in the area at the time] and returned to the station at 5pm [around the same time that Somchai came back to his office, not far from the CSD], whereupon he reported to the second defendant. He said that his superior ordered him to lend their two mobile phones to the two other officers and for them to go and search further, whereupon he did as ordered. The two officers took the phones and left the police station to the area of Ramkamhaeng Road [where Somchai was again present] around 7pm. He said that it is normal practice to share phones among the police in his unit, as the bills are paid by his superior. The defendant said that he and defendant 2 stayed at the station waiting for news from the two other officers until 10pm. They came back and said they also could not arrest the suspect. They stayed for some time further and then went home.

The defendant said that he was in the area where Somchai was also located on the day he was abducted, but on a separate matter. He said that he did not know and has never seen Somchai. Under examination, he said that he doubted the accuracy of the mobile phone records, and said that the reason he and the others had been accused was due to the internal police conflict.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Chadchai Leiamsa-ngoun, the fifth defendant, who is a senior investigator with the Crime Suppression Division (CSD), said that he has served as a police officer for twenty years. He explained that although his name was included on a list of officers who investigated the armoury raid in the south of Thailand in which the investigators were accused by Somchai of torturing suspects, he did not actually investigate in this case as he was ordered to attend a training programme at that time. He said that the list included almost the entire staff of the CSD, and his name was put as well. He also said that he had never visited the alleged torture victims.

The defendant accused the Metropolitan Police of attempting to search his house illegally, and alleged that they had used a doctored search warrant for the house of another suspect in the case. He also said that he was strongly backed by his superiors from CSD, who argued with the Metropolitan Police over his arrest.

The defendant also said that he saw irregularities in the investigation of the Metropolitan police: in particular, regarding the eyewitnesses. He said that their testimonies had changed, and that they had not gone to revisit the crime scene because they said that they were scared. He said that the investigators did not photograph the scene of the alleged incident, and the manner in which photographs were presented to the witnesses was not in accordance with procedure.

The defendant also alleged that the phone records being used in evidence against him and the other defendants are forged and should not have been used in court. He said that this was clearly the case because the telephone was closed from 10-16 March 2004 due to a bad battery. He pointed out specific documents that he said were fakes. He gave many examples of the conflict between the CSD and the Metropolitan Police to show that he has been targeted for reason of that conflict.

The defendant said that he is still at work because the Police Commission has given an order to allow it. He complained that he normally received an award for good service annually but the accusation that he was involved in the abduction of Somchai had caused an outcry when he was due to receive one in 2004.

November 16
Pol. Lt. Col. Chadchai continued his testimony from the previous day, reiterating that eyewitness testimonies were not reliable and giving examples of conflicts between the Metropolitan Police and the CSD. He also said that someone who had reportedly been an eyewitness was found out to have been paid by a lawyer to tell the story, and he had complained about the lawyer to the Lawyers Council (formerly Law Society) of Thailand. He said that not all the eyewitness accounts had been submitted to the court and requested that this be done so that the court could see the discrepancies.

Under cross-examination the defendant said that before 10 March 2004 his telephone was used by another officer and he did not know anything about the calls. He closed it then due to a low battery. It was not replaced until after March 16. He said that he was at his office the whole day on 12 March 2004. He said at the nighttime he was at a department store but there were no security camera records as they had already been taped over by the time he enquired. He said that the security man he asked and a vendor near the store would know him, but could not explain why they had not been called as witnesses.

He reiterated that the reason for the charges against him is the internal police conflict, and said that the other defendants would also be applying next month to resume their jobs.

Pol.Col.Vittayadej Worradirok, an officer of the Narathiwat Provincial Police Station at the time of the armoury raid in 2004, said that he was assigned to head the inquiry into the incident. He said that he obtained confessions from four suspects [who later alleged to Somchai just prior to his abduction that they had been tortured: see UA-94-2004] and that they had set fire to schools in the south of Thailand and cut trees to block roads used by military vehicles. However, he said that he did not know if before or after he interrogated the four whether they had been tortured or not. He said they were brought for interrogation under martial law provisions. On 24 February 2004, the police took the suspects to make full confessions and reenact the crime and the first defendant was also there in order to guard Pol. Gen. Kovit Wattana, the current Commissioner-General. The witness denied that the suspects were tortured and said that they had confessed in front of their legal representatives. He said he did not know who put the name of the fifth defendant on the investigation report, and said that he did not know anyone from the CSD.

Police Colonel Songsak Raksaksakul, now with the Department of Special Investigation, who at the time of the armoury raid was the deputy officer in charge of inquiries with the CSD. He said that four of the five suspects that they arrested had confessed, and that they had been arrested in accordance with warrants issued by the Narathiwat Provincial Court. He said that he followed procedure, informing the suspects of the charges against them. He also denied that they were tortured and said that they had confessed in front of legal representatives. He said that if a police officer was named on the record for arrests, it must bean that they were involved in the process.

November 17
Mr Cheawcharn Chotinant, a lawyer from Narathiwat Province, said that he was assigned to represent three of the suspects in the armoury raid case by the Lawyers Council. He also denied that the suspects had been tortured; however, a record produced in court by the joint prosecution showed that he had not [formally] asked the suspects about whether or not they had been tortured. The witness admitted that when reading out the confessions for signing by the witnesses he had not read the documents verbatim, but just read out an outline. He said that he had a language problem because the suspects were accustomed to speak the local Yawi language, not Thai. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the suspects had signed a document to the effect that they understood Thai well.

Mr Veerawut Phromphet, the other lawyer appointed to the armoury case by the Law Society, for a fourth suspect, said that he asked the suspect if he was alright and he nodded in reply, but later on complained that he had been tortured. He said that he did not see the first defendant [who has been accused of being involved in the alleged torture]. He said that his client understood and spoke Thai, and he went over the typed confession.

Police Major Nitinai Wangyanai said that he was assigned to investigate the allegations of torture in the armoury raid case. He said that he had his subordinates interrogate the suspects, the two lawyers and two police officers who had been involved in the investigation. After that he submitted his report to the Police Commission, which concluded that there were no grounds for the allegations of torture, and the commission had no further requests. Under cross-examination he admitted that he was listed among the officers who had carried out the arrests of the suspects, but said that he was not actually among them and his signature was not on the list, although he knew about the operation.

Police Major Somkeit Kaewwiset, an officer with the Special Branch, said that he was responsible for management of suspects at the Special Branch training school. In the case of the armoury raid suspects, he had to keep two of them in detention from 26 February 2004. He said that they had no regulations for medical check-ups, but if the suspects had a health problem then they would arrange for a doctor. The witness acknowledged that Somchai and other lawyers visited the suspects there. He did not receive any report that the five defendants had visited the suspects there. He added that the two suspects did not make any complaint that they were tortured by the police as they used a different language from the witness.

November 18
Mr Chaichana Indramongkol, a nurse at the Bangkok Prison, explained how a medical check-up is conducted before someone is detained in the prison. The objectives of the medical check up are to search for any drugs, and check for wounds or chronic illness. The medical check up is used to establish if inmates have had wounds before or after they are in the prison. After that the witness records the result of the medical check up on a form.

The witness said that the five suspects in the armoury raid case were brought to the prison on 4 March 2004. As he found nothing wrong with them, he wrote that they were in normal health. However, under cross-examination the witness acknowledged that he only looks for fresh wounds, not those that are faded or old. He also said that he had never seen a wound from alleged electric shock still visible after ten days. He said that he takes 3-4 minutes to assess each prisoner.

Police Sergeant Major Nikom Kangwan, an officer of the Huamark District Police Station, said that he has the duty to receive and send messages over the police radio, and answer the telephones. On 12 March 2004 he has working from 4pm to midnight. At 10:40pm he received a call from the Serithai police radio station, stating that there was fighting in front of the National Stadium, opposite to Soi Ramkamhaeng 65. He later informed a patrol to check the area and the patrol reported that there was nothing happening there. The witness said that before that time he did not receive any complaint of an incident nearby the Maelaplapao restaurant [where Somchai was allegedly abducted].

Police Sergeant Boonchert Artthong said that he was on patrol from Huamark District Police Station together with Pol. Sgt. Sornpong Nak-ek on the night of 12 March 2005. At 10:40pm he received the radio call that there was fighting in front of the National Stadium, opposite to Soi Ramkamhaeng 65. When he they went there, they found nothing. He said that eight other patrols were out doing the same work. If the incident had happened, another patrol could also have been called.

Police Senior Sergeant Major Sab Bureethong said that he was on duty receiving complaints in Serithai police radio station on 12 March 2004, from 4 to 9pm. He said that he received many 191 emergency calls, but nothing related to the alleged abduction on Ramkamhaeng Road.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Chairat Karnchananetra said that during the armoury raid incident, he was deputy superintendent of the Tanyong Sub-district Police Station [where the torture of the suspects is alleged to have occurred: see UA-94-2004]. He brought four suspects for inquiry under martial law provisions, and kept them in the inquiry room at the police station. The men were watched by two officers. On 23 February 2004, the court issued a summons for their arrest together with a fifth suspect. On 24 February 2004 the police took the suspects to reenact the crime. The witness said that from the pictures taken by the police he didn’t see any wounds on the bodies of the men. In the evening, four suspects were interrogated. Two lawyers were present. They were all transferred to Bangkok on February 25.

The witness said that he had heard that the suspects accused the police of torture because he received a letter instructing him to investigate this allegation. He said that he then assigned Pol. Maj. Nitinai Wangyanai to investigate, who concluded that the allegations were groundless. He said that the five suspects had complained as a way to defend themselves, because the charges were serious.

The witness said he knew the first defendant before, as he had come to the south while taking care of Pol. Gen. Kovit Wattana. The witness also said that he knew the second defendant, and that he worked in CSD, and the fifth defendant, who was his senior in the police training school.


The Criminal Court is located on Ratchadapisek Road, Ladprao, next to the Courts of Appeal and Civil Court. It is best reached by taxi or private vehicle; however, it is in walking distance of the Ladprao BTS station and busses run past the front of the building. The trial is ordinarily conducted in room 811, or another room on the 8th floor.

The morning session is scheduled to begin at 9am. The afternoon session is scheduled for 1:30pm. Each session runs around three hours. Occasionally testimonies are concluded by the end of the morning session.


Judge: Mr Suwit Pornpanich and two assistant judges

Accused (seated on the right of the court)
1. Police Major Ngern Tongsuk
2. Police Lieutenant Colonel Sinchai Nimbunkampong
3. Police Lance Corporal Chaiweng Paduang
4. Police Sergeant Rundorn Sithiket
5. Police Lieutenant Colonel Chadchai Leiamsa-ngoun


Coercion & gang robbery under sections 309 & 340 of the Penal Code of Thailand


Visit the new Somchai Neelaphaijit webpage: www.ahrchk.net/somchai.

For additional information or inquiries regarding the case please contact the Urgent Appeals Desk of the AHRC.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-145-2005
Countries : Thailand,
Campaigns : Somchai Neelaphaijit
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions, Human rights defenders, Impunity,