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7 Years After Billy’s Death, Widow Pleads with OAG to Speed Investigation

Porlajee 'Billy' Rakchongcharoen in Kaeng Krachan National Park. (Photo: BBC.com)
Porlajee 'Billy' Rakchongcharoen in Kaeng Krachan National Park.

After Thai law enforcement dragged its feet for seven years, the widow of late Karen activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen asked the Office of the Attorney General to speed up the case of her husband’s death after the Department of Special Investigation finished additional interrogations.

Surapong Kongchantuk, president of the Cross-Cultural Foundation, brought Pinnapa Prueksapan to the OAG to file her request for public prosecutors to quickly indict suspects on the murder of her husband. Prayut Phetchakhun, deputy spokesman of the office, received her written request.

In August 2020, the Department of Special Investigation said it was ready to charge four men with the murder of Porlajee, a Christian ethnic-Karen activist who went missing in 2014.

The investigative body, which operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Justice independently of the Royal Thai Police, said it has gathered enough evidence to challenge an earlier decision by the Office of the Attorney-General to drop murder charges against the four suspects, who include Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, former head of Kaeng Krachan National Park where the land-rights activist went missing.

Pinnapa said that she was grateful for the Department of Special Investigation for finishing additional interrogation for public prosecutors and she felt more confident that wrongdoers would be punished in the case of her husband’s disappearance.

She said she would like public prosecutors to accelerate the case which had been in its process for several years and the land ownership hardship of Karen people that her late husband had complained about still continued.

Pinnapa said the movement on disputed Karen’s land ownership caused the disappearance of her husband.

Porlajee was a prominent rights activist who had been calling for the rights of Karen people to their ancestral lands to be respected inside forests. He was last seen alive in the national park in Phetchaburi Province on April 17, 2014.

He disappeared shortly being arrested at a checkpoint by Chaiwat and three of his underlings who later said they had detained Porlajee for collecting wild honey illegally in a protected forest reserve.

The four claimed they had released Porlajee unharmed and were unsure of his whereabouts. Yet, last year, investigators discovered bone fragments inside a steel drum sunken in a reservoir of the national park that were found to be remains of the missing activist.

Chaiwat and the three other men allegedly killed the Karen activist and burned his remains in a steel drum in an effort to dispose of them.

The Thailand News Agency contributed to this report.