[RE: 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-77-2005: THAILAND: Department of Special Investigation fails to bring justice to Charoen Wat-aksorn case; UP-89-2005: THAILAND: Repeated failed commitment to assign Department of Special Investigation to Somchai case; 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-049-2006: THAILAND: Minister of Justice must address recent issues that have arisen concerning disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit; UA-112-2005: THAILAND: Murder of Thai monk following an environmental and land dispute with local influential business figures; UP-028-2006: THAILAND: Protection withdrawn from monk who continues to receive death threats; UA-153-2004: THAILAND: Two cases of extremely serious torture and cruel and inhuman treatment by Thai police officers; UP-71-2004: THAILAND: More serious allegations of police torture emerge in Thailand; UP-75-2004: THAILAND: Demand immediate criminal action against police torturers; UP-78-2004: THAILAND: Torture cases transferred to special investigators, but police still free; UP-157-2005: THAILAND: Alleged tortured victim withdraws his complaint against the police; UP-061-2006: THAILAND: First call for special investigation chief to resign over Somchai case; UP-107-2006: THAILAND: Second call for special investigation chief to resign; EU expresses concern in Somchai case; UP-124-2006: THAILAND: Important programme to commemorate human rights defenders and discuss failed investigations; UP-128-2006: THAILAND: Please sign petition to remove head of special investigation from post]
THAILAND: Obstruction of justice; forced disappearance; extrajudicial killing; torture; attacks on human rights defenders; negligence; impunity; unaccountability
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is pleased to inform you that the head of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has been removed from his job over the failure to solve the March 2004 abduction by police of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit. Police General Sombat Amornvivat was transferred to another part of the justice ministry on November 3. However, the AHRC and other rights defenders believe that the police general may have deliberately damaged the investigation to protect other police. Therefore, it is not enough that he is simply transferred. There must also be an investigation into his work as DSI director, and if necessary he must be prosecuted.
In recent days, the attorney general in Thailand has said that the DSI has enough evidence to prove that Somchai was murdered, with which to lay new charges. There are also suggestions that someone close to the former prime minister, Pol. Lt. Col. Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, may have masterminded the abduction (see AS-269-2006). The AHRC has written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN rights experts to ask them to closely monitor the progress of the case (AHRC-OL-061-2006). Meanwhile, Pol. Gen. Sombat has been removed from his post as DSI director and an appeals court judge is due to take over the position (AHRC-PL-098-2006).
The recent developments in Somchai’s case, which come as the agents of the September 19 military coup go after persons attached to the former government, speak to how politically controlled criminal investigation is in Thailand. The AHRC has maintained since mid-2005 that the investigation was being obstructed by the DSI director. In mid-2006 the wife of the missing lawyer, Angkhana Neelaphaijit, said that she also believed that he may have behaved illegally.
The AHRC also set up a petition calling for his dismissal, which attracted signatories from around the world: http://thailand.ahrchk.net/dsi_petition. The petition addressed not only the case of Somchai but other human rights cases that the DSI had failed to solve despite ample evidence, in particular, the killings of environmentalists Charoen Wat-aksorn and Phra Supoj Suwajo.
The allegations of wrongdoing of Pol. Gen. Sombat are serious and deserve to be investigated. It is not sufficient that he be removed from his post. By uncovering his wrongdoing it may be possible to better understand how investigating agencies in Thailand continue to serve as tools for persons with political power, in order to make the necessary changes to prevent more of the same in the future.
For more information on the alleged wrongdoing of the DSI former head and related issues, see:
AS-104-2006: DSI director must be sacked and investigated
AS-100-2006: Who should be boss of the Department of Special Investigation?
AS-077-2006: Department of Special Investigation or Department of Sporadic Interest?
AS-049-2006: No obligations, just public relations
AS-048-2006: Here is Angkhana, there is Porntip…where is Sombat?
AS-123-2005: DSI must promptly and assertively answer the question “Where is Somchai?”
AS-084-2005: What is the point of Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation?
AHRC-PL-055-2006: Families of victims demand answers from DSI
AHRC-PL-051-2006: Ministry reviewing role of DSI chief in Somchai case
AHRC-PL-048-2006: Support from around world for call to reform DSI
AHRC-PL-043-2006: Remove DSI director, new petition demands
DSI fails to prove itself – Bangkok Post Editorial [10 August 2006]
Also visit the Somchai Neelaphaijit homepage:
Please write to concerned persons in Thailand to request that the former DSI chief also be investigated. Please also request that the Somchai case be handled with great care, that all witnesses and the victim’s family be protected, and that all human rights cases with the DSI be reviewed.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
THAILAND: Former DSI director must be investigated
I am pleased to hear that the director general of the Department of Special Investigation, Pol. Gen. Sombat Amornvivat, has been removed from his post over his failed leadership in the investigation of missing human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit.
However, I urge you to also see that an investigation of alleged wrongdoing by Pol. Gen. Sombat is begun and that he is not allowed to take up another official post.
In this respect, I remind you of a May 9 letter to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Justice in Thailand by Angkhana Neelaphaijit, wife of the abducted lawyer, who at that time called for Pol. Gen. Sombat’s removal on grounds of alleged wrongdoing. The allegations she made then went beyond suggestions of mere negligence to criminal obstruction of justice. They included that the DSI director had
1. Illegally helped the police accused of abducting her husband to get prosecution evidence with which to prepare their defence.
2. Deliberately led the investigation into dead-ends.
3. Failed to initiate a proper investigation into the telephone calls between the key accused and other police officers around the time of the abduction.
These allegations are serious, and deserve full investigation. I urge you to take the necessary steps to see that this is done without delay. I also wish to stress that whether simply negligent or criminally liable, I do not believe that Pol. Gen. Sombat is worthy of any official position. He should not be transferred but sacked from the ministry and police service.
I also take this opportunity to remind the government of Thailand of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as investigations in the Somchai Neelaphaijit case again move ahead, and in particular call for
1. Forensic and telecommunications experts to collect, study and analyse the evidence with which to secure convictions of the actual murderers of Somchai, and other persons complicit in his abduction, in order to avoid the problems of evidence that occurred in the trial of the five accused police in 2005.
2. The appointment of a senior public prosecutor to handle the case from start to finish, with guarantees of the necessary personnel and other resources needed to do the job properly, in order to prevent the debacle that occurred during the 2005 trial, when public prosecutors changed almost daily.
3. All necessary protection to be given to witnesses and the family of the victim in accordance with the provisions of the Witness Protection Act BE 2544 (2001), in order to avoid the spectacle of terrified eyewitnesses in the courtroom, as occurred during the first trial, and the making of death threats to the wife of the victim.
4. The reopening of other investigations related to the case, in particular, the allegations of torture of five of his clients accused in connection with the January 2004 armoury raid in the south, which have never been properly investigated.
Finally, I take this opportunity to urge for all human rights cases handled by the DSI to be reviewed, among them, the 2005 murders of environmentalists Charoen Wat-aksorn and Phra Supoj Suwajo, in which police and local “influential persons” have been implicated, and other cases where state officers are among the accused parties, including torture cases. There are also many similar cases that fit the department’s criteria which it nonetheless has declined to take up that should also be subject to review.
The case of Somchai Neelaphaijit is of immense importance to Thailand because it is at the nexus between gross human rights abuse and persistent impunity enjoyed by state officers there. These abuses and impunity extend across all parts of policing and military behaviour in all areas of the country. It is for this reason that the case will continue to obtain immense national and international attention until such a time as all of the real perpetrators are identified and convicted.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTER TO:
1. General Surayud Chulanont
Interim Prime Minister
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
2. Mr. Charnchai Likitjitta
Interim Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Tel: +662 502 6776/ 8223
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
3. Mr. Pachara Yutidhammadamrong
Office of the Attorney General
Tel: +662 224 1563/ 222 8121-30
Fax: +662 224 0162/ 1448/ 221 0858
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
4. Prof. Saneh Chamarik
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathum Wan District
Tel: +662 2219 2980
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
5. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Att: Melinda Ching Simon
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS)
6. Mr. Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
Attn: Lydie Ventre
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR EXECUTIONS)
7. Mr. Santiago Corcuera
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
Attn: Tanya Smith
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 917 9176
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: WORKING GROUP EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS)
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)