KontraS is one of the member of AFAD. We are joint with the solidarity commemoration with our fellow in Asian over the:
SURFACE PORLAGEE "Billy Rakchongcharoen" RAKCHAROEN AND BRING HIM SAFE TO HIS FAMILY
It has been a year since ethnic Karen Mr. Porlagee Rakcharoen went disappeared and nothing has been heard of his whereabouts. Also known as Billy Rakchongcharoen, a prominent environmental activist and human rights defender, he was last seen in the afternoon of 17th April 2014 after he was reportedly arrested and detained at a checkpoint at Kaeng Krachan National Park in Petchaburi province by Thai park authorities for questioning for alleged unlawful gathering of wild bee honeycomb and illegal possession of six bottles of honey.
Mr. Chaiwat Limlikitaksor, chief of the Kaeng Krachan National Park Office told local activists on 18 April 2014 that Mr. Porlagee had been released after the questioning and denied any knowledge on his whereabouts.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), expresses grave concern over the safety and fate of Mr. Porlagee Rakcharoen. Basing on the circumstances, AFAD strongly believes that the ethnic Karen had been forcibly disappeared by Thai park authorities. Also, the concerned park authorities had not presented evidence of Mr. Porlagee’s release from arrest or the details of his detention.
Reportedly, Mr. Porlagee was on his way from his village in Kaeng Krachan District to meet with ethnic Karen villagers to prepare themselves for an upcoming lawsuit they filed against park chief Mr. Chaiwat Limlikitaksor, the National Park, Wildlife and Plant, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The lawsuit stemmed from the alleged destruction of homes and pieces of property of more than 20 ethnic Karen families in Bangkloybon village in the National Park by park officials, in July 2011. M. Porlagee assisted the villagers in the filing of the lawsuit.
Mr. Porlagee was also planning to collect signatures for a royal petition concerning Mr. Chaiwat’s alleged abuse of power, and submit it to the King of Thailand.
Illegal activities that led to the degradation of Kaeng Krachan National Park by park officials were also divulged and reported by Mr. Porlagee and the ethnic Karen villagers. Apparently, this earned the ire of park officials. The harassment of Karen villagers has been going on for some time and became severe in May-July 2011, when many of the villagers’ house and rice stores were burned ad money, pieces of jewelry, fishing and farm tools were stolen allegedly by a group comprising of park wardens and military forces. This alleged forceful action has violated the human rights of the affected indigenous Karen community on a number of grounds and has raised concerns as it also involved unlawful arrests, intimidation and use of force to evict the Karen villagers from Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Mr. Chaiwat was charged in January 2012 for allegedly organizing the 10th September 2011 murder of Tatkamol Ob-om, a human rights defender from Mr. Porlagee’s network, but the park chief has not been suspended from duty as required under disciplinary regulations regarding officials under criminal investigation. Before he was killed, Tatkamol had assisted ethnic Karen villagers in reporting allegations of illegal logging, poaching and violence against the community committed by park officials.
AFAD strongly believes that Mr. Porlagee’s lawsuit against Mr. Chaiwat and other park officials is the motive behind his enforced disappearance. The Government of Thailand should conduct a transparent, speedy investigation and explained what happened to Mr. Porlagee. It should surface Mr. Porlagee safely and return him to his family and people, and prosecute all those involved of his disappearance.
Mr. Porlagee’s enforced disappearance has caused grave concerns on the safety of human rights defenders, especially those defending on ethnic minorities’ land rights (ancestral domain) and their right to access, control and management of natural resources.
Thailand has a record of deadly violence directed at activists defending the land rights of ethnic minority Karen and protecting the environment from development aggression and land grabbing. Perpetrators are rarely prosecuted according to the law.
AFAD reminds Thailand that, as a member of the United Nations, it has the legal duty to prevent and protect its citizens from enforced disappearance as part of its obligation to ensure life, human dignity, liberty, freedom from torture, equal protection of the law and other basic rights. Thailand became a member of the United Nations on 16 December 1946 and therefore, should adhere to the principles and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international instruments. On 29th October 1996, Thailand acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It was also part of the 1992 unanimous adoption of the United Nations Declaration for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which stresses, that, "No circumstances whatsoever, a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances."
Although Thailand has not yet ratified the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance after signing it on 9th January 2012, it is morally bound to respect its provisions. Enforced disappearance is cruel, it affects both victims and their families, and when committed in a manner which is massive and systematic, is considered a crime against humanity.
AFAD is gravely alarmed on this pattern of impunity in Thailand fostered by the failure of the government to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of serious crimes against land and people’s rights activists and human rights defenders. More than 20 human rights defenders have been disappeared, human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit included, and murdered with impunity for the past twenty years. This is not to mention the many disappeared people brought about by the Black May Massacre of 1992.
The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, therefore, urges the Government of Thailand to:
1. Surface and ensure the safety of Mr. Porlagee "Billy Rakchongcharoen" Rakcharoen and return him to his family and people
2. Conduct an impartial investigation and prosecute Mr. Chaiwat Limlikitaksor and all those involved in the disappearance of Mr. Porlagee
3. Ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
4. Prevent recurrence of enforced disappearance
5. Enact domestic legislation criminalizing enforced disappearance
6. Provide protection to environmental, land and peoples’ rights activists and human rights defenders
7. Investigate and prosecute perpetrators of other past cases of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations
Signed and authenticated by:
||MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO