UPDATE (Thailand): Human rights lawyer still missing after nearly one year; Action needed today to have case transferred 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-20-2005
ISSUES: Enforced disappearances and abductions,

[RE: FA-06-2004: THAILAND: A human rights lawyer Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit missing; UP-14-2004: THAILAND: Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit is still missing and the police may be involved in his disappearance; UP-26-2004: THAILAND: 5 suspects in the alleged abduction of missing human rights lawyer Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit bailed out]

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is gravely concerned that after nearly one year there has been no progress in finding out what happened to Thai human rights lawyer Mr Somchai Neelaphaijit. Five police allegedly pulled Somchai from his car on 12 March 2004. He has not been seen since. The five police are facing related criminal charges, but the AHRC is concerned that the charges against them do not fit the scale of the crime, and that powerful people in the police force and government may be acting to protect the accused. The five have denied the charges. Meanwhile, the case has remained in the hands of the police, who not surprisingly have failed to make any progress.

The AHRC has now been informed that the matter is again due to come before a committee for special cases, which has the power to transfer the case from the police to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which is under the Ministry of Justice. The committee will meet tomorrow, February 25. The Prime Minister, Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Minister of Justice, Mr Pongthep Thepkanjana, head the committee.

It is very important that if any progress in uncovering the truth about what happened to Somchai is to be made the case be transferred out of the hands of the police to the DSI. However, that will not be the end of the matter. The DSI will also have to be strongly pressured to follow the case vigorously, as there are presumed to be senior figures in Thailand who do not want the case resolved.

The AHRC also notes that the Minister of Justice had earlier insisted that the case was already in the hands of the DSI, but this was found to be untrue. Attempts by Somchai’s wife, who is a co-plaintiff in the criminal case against the five police, to get the DSI take up the case have also so far failed. Therefore, the AHRC is concerned that there may be various ruses employed by the authorities to cover up the case and continue to deny effective action that will resolve the matter in the interests of Somchai’s family and the wider public good.

There has also been no effective action taken by the government in response to the detailed allegations of serious torture of his five clients that Somchai made prior to his disappearance. Attempts by other parties, including a Senate subcommittee, to find the police responsible for the alleged torture have so far been blocked.

We call on you to fax strong letters of protest and send emails today over the continued failure of the government of Thailand to address properly this very serious disappearance case. Please urge that the case must be transferred to the DSI without further delay, and it must be given the necessary resources to complete its inquiries quickly and effectively. A sample letter follows. Please also send letters by regular mail to coincide with the anniversary of Somchai’s disappearance, on March 12.

To see our previous appeals on the case please visit visit FA-06-2004UP-14-2004 and UP-26-2004.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)


Mr. Somchai was last seen in Bang Kapi district on the night of 12 March 2004. His disappearance followed public statements made by him that five of his clients were severely tortured. Subsequently, five police officers from different parts of the force were identified as the alleged culprits of the removal of Mr Somchai from his car, and charged with two related criminal offences that fall far short of kidnapping or forced disappearance. Only if the body of Somchai is recovered can they be charged with more serious offences related to his murder.

On 5 August 2004, the Minister of Justice wrote to the AHRC that, “An ad hoc committee under the responsibility of the , the Ministry of Justice has been set up to work on information gathering, forensic evidence as well as other investigation for the case.” He also wrote that it had made “a lot of progress”. However, the AHRC has since found out that the DSI has not been given the case, and that there has been no apparent progress. Ms Angkana Wongrachain, the wife of the victim, on September 23 requested the DSI to take up the case, but was refused.

As the case has remained with the police there has been no progress. This is not surprising, as the police are themselves the alleged perpetrators of the crime. It is also presumed that the five officers alleged to have abducted Mr Somchai are being protected by powerful persons within the police force and the government, as they would have been acting on the orders of superiors, not autonomously.


Please send a fax or email to the Minister for Justice of Thailand, Mr Ponthep Thepkanjana, today, February 24, asking that the committee established to handle special cases transfer the inquiry into the forced disappearance of Somchai to the DSI. Please also remind him that as yet no effective independent avenue exists for persons seeking to make complaints against police officers in Thailand, and no law exists to make forced disappearances illegal.

For those of you who cannot send a fax or email, please modify the letter [remove the third paragraph] and send it in observance with the anniversary of Somchai’s disappearance, March 12. There will be solidarity actions organised in Thailand and abroad, and your letters will contribute to these.



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


Dear Mr Pongthep,


I am writing to express my strong disappointment that almost a year after the forced disappearance of prominent human rights lawyer, Mr Somchai Neelaphaijit, your government has still failed to undertake any satisfactory inquiries to resolve the case in the interests of the family and the wider public.

I am informed that despite the matter having been brought forward to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) under your Ministry, so far it has remained in the hands of the Royal Thai Police. As the accused persons are police officers, it is completely unacceptable that the police force be given the responsibility of overseeing the investigation. In light of your statements that every possible step would be taken to uncover the truth and punish the perpetrators, it is extremely confusing that this continues to be the case and that the DSI has not been given the lead role in the investigation.

I am also informed that the matter will again come before the special cases committee, of which you are the deputy-head, for consideration this February 25. I urge you to ensure that the case is transferred to the DSI and it is given all resources necessary to solve the case and punish the perpetrators without further delay.

I would again remind you that at present there is no effective independent avenue for receiving and investigating complaints of serious abuses by the police in Thailand. I urge you to see to it that one be established. I also urge you to take steps to make forced disappearance illegal and subject to strong criminal sanctions.

Yours truly



Mr Pongthep Thepkanjana
Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi
Bangkok 11120
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
Email: phongthep@moj.go.th


1. Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra
Prime Minister
Government house,
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District,
Bangkok 10300
Fax: +66 2 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
Email: govspkman@mozart.inet.co.th

2. Professor Saneh Chamarik
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathurn Wan District
Bangkok 10300
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
Email: commission@nhrc.or.th

3. Pol. Gen. Sombat Amonwiwat
Department of Special Investigation
Ministry of Justice Building
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pakkred, Nonthaburi
Bangkok 11120
Fax: +66 2 913 7777
Email: dir.gen@sid.go.th

4. Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayan,
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
C/o OHCHR-UNOG, 1211 Geneva 10,
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org

5. Ms Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights defenders
Att: Ben Majekodunmi
Room 1-040
1211 Geneva 10
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
E-mail: bmajekodunmi@ohchr.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-20-2005
Countries : Thailand,
Campaigns : Somchai Neelaphaijit
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions,