While the military dictatorship plays with ways to maintain its grip on power, human rights languish:
THAILAND: Failure of justice for human rights defenders
Hong Kong, 11 March 2016
One year after the assassination of human rights defender Mr. Chai Boontonglek, a member of the Southern Peasants’ Federation of Thailand (SPFT), the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned about persistent impunity in human rights murder cases.
On February 11, the AHRC received information from Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) and Protection International Thailand (PI) that on 28 and 29 January 2016, the Wieng Sra Provincial Court examined the witnesses in criminal case no. 1273/2558 related to Mr. Boontonglek’s assassination.
Mr. Boontonglek was a land rights defender of Khlong Sai Pattana community, Chaiburi district, Surat Thani province, southern Thailand. On 11 February 2015, Mr. Boonthonglek was murdered by gunmen outside his community. On 21 May 2015, the Wieng Sra public prosecutor filed a charge against only the motorcyclist involved in the shooting, even though the police had arrested the shooter and target pointer as well. According to the prosecutor, “We had no concrete evidence to prove their guilt.”
The lack of charges led to the fear of threats, resulting in some of Mr. Boontonglek’s witnesses and their legal team filing a petition requesting witness protection in June 2015. They subsequently received protection from the Chai Buri police station, Surat Thani province.
During the witness examination of January 28-29, Mr. Boontonglek’s relative, as co–plaintiff with the Wieng Sra public prosecutor, called four witnesses for examination. These witnesses testified to the relation between the defendant, the shooter and the target pointer. The defendant’s three witnesses only confirmed that they were with the defendant during Mr. Boontonglek’s murder.
The verdict in Mr. Boontonglek’s case will be delivered at the Wieng Sra Provincial Court on March 15 at 9:00 a.m.
Mr. Boontonglek is the fourth human rights defender from Khlong Sai Pattana community to have been murdered since 2010. On 11 January 2010, Mr. Somphom Pattaphum was brutally shot and killed inside Khlong Sai Pattana community land. Two years later, on 19 November 2012, two women land rights defenders, Ms. Montha Chukaew and Ms. Pranee Boonrat, were assassinated and their bodies mutilated on the road to Khlong Sai Pattana community, which passes through an expired palm oil concession land. Nevertheless, no charges were filed nor legal proceedings pursued against anyone involved in these murders of three human rights defenders.
It is therefore important that the Thai government take exhaustive and independent investigations into attacks against all human rights defenders, and punish the perpetrators according to law. Not only is this the means to provide justice to the victims and their families, but it is also fundamental to preventing such attacks.