The disappeared and impunity

14 12 2010

The Asian Human Rights Commission has released an important statement that reflects on the judicial system in Thailand.

It says that “[o]ver six-and-a-half years after police abducted and presumably killed human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, no one has yet been punished.” The AHRC details the case and its twists and turns that amount, in the end, to a complete failure of the justice system.

The one police officer found guilty of a relatively minor criminal charge related to Somchai’s disappearance “disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Persons following the case suspect he faked his own death and changed his identity in order not to go to prison. Meanwhile, his relatives applied for him to be declared legally missing on the eve of the appeal court reading its verdict in the case, and now the verdict too has disappeared.”

The AHRC states that Somchai’s case reveals the secrecy and lies that has followed the case from its very beginning to the present, speaking to the extent to which the legal system in Thailand can be influenced and manipulated by interested and powerful persons.” Somchai disappeared the “day before his disappearance, Somchai submitted a complaint to the court which detailed the forms of torture experienced by the five men…. He also spoke out publicly and passionately on the case, accusing the police of gross wrongdoing.”

The only officer ever implicated in the daytime abduction of Somchai was Police Major Ngern Thongsuk. He is the one who has also disappeared, but seemingly on his own terms. But: “The court convicted him of coercion, since to abduct a person and kill them is not a crime in Thailand if remains of the body cannot be found. The case then went to appeal. A judgment in the appeal case was finally made on 10 August 2010, and the Criminal Court received the verdict from the Appeal Court, to read it out. On August 24, the Criminal Court called the parties in the case to come listen to the appeal judgment on September 24. However, through a series of machinations it did not read the judgment. Behind the failure of the court to read the verdict lie a multitude of problems that are rooted in the deep impunity and collusion of Thai security and judicial institutions.”

It gets worse:

By 15 November 2010, the judgment had still not been read and the prosecutor in the case submitted a motion urging the court to postpone the reading to a later date. It appears that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which was tasked with investigating the disappearance of Somchai Neelaphaijit but has consistently failed to fulfil its duties, has again intervened. The DSI opposed the motion to have Police Major Ngern declared as a missing person, but also pushed for a delay of the hearing in this matter. Its motives for opposing the declaration to have the former policeman declared missing are unclear, but the one aspect of the case that is clear is that the DSI is working to further delay the case, perhaps in order to keep pressure and attention off itself. Close observers of Somchai’s case are concerned that the reading of the verdict will be postponed indefinitely….

The AHRC states that “Thailand’s police and judiciary should not think that the case of Somchai Neelaphaijit has been forgotten. Nor will it ever be, no matter how many tricks police, prosecutors, judicial bureaucrats and others pull to try to make so.”



2 responses

15 12 2010
Reneging on the emergency decree and DSI reports | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Skip to content HomeAbout usPending casesConvictionsCommentaryTake Action ← The disappeared and impunity December 15, 2010 · 12:20 […]

11 08 2011
Impunity and the judiciary | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit (for earlier accounts on Somchai’s case see here and […]

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