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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

FOURTH YEAR ANNIVERSARY - Missing Lawyer Somchai


Missing Lawyer Somchai

Angkhana Neelaphaichit delivers a statement at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of her husband, Somchai, on Wednesday

While this statement is read, I am at the United Nations' Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland, to present a report on the human rights situation in Thailand and also to report on the latest developments and obstacles in the investigation of the disappearance of Mr Somchai Neelapaichit, which was taken up by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGED) four years ago.

"The first trial implicating five police officers in the disappearance of Somchai Neelapaichit, who were charged with coercion and robbery, ended two years ago and the First Court's verdict stated that there was a police officer together with another three to five persons who forced Somchai into a car before he disappeared on March 12, 2004.

"This court case is now under the consideration of the Court of Appeal. The Department of Special Investigations has been in charge of investigating the case and pressing further charges. In addition, the DSI has requested that the Office of the National Counter Corruption Commission investigate police officers who were allegedly torturing Somchai's clients in January 2004.

"It is believed that Somchai was abducted because of his complaint against the torture allegations.

"The present government of Samak Sundaravej sacked Mr Sunai Manomai-udom and appointed Police Colonel Tawee Sodsong as acting director of the Department of Special Investigations, and Police General Sombat Amornwiwat as an advisor to the Ministry of Justice. Police Colonel Tawee Sodsong stated in an interview to the media that he will give priority to the Somchai Neelapaichit case.

"In commemoration of Somchai's disappearance four years ago, I would like to make the following appeal to the Thai government and the DSI:

"1. To request that the Thai government and the DSI be sincere in bringing justice to this case and prosecuting the wrongdoers, including high-ranking police officers, as it is my belief that his enforced disappearance is a heinous crime against humanity.

"2. To request that the DSI be courageous and to call Police Lieutenant Colonel Thaksin Shinawatra, former prime minister of Thailand, to give testimony as a witness in this case. Information has been received that a close colleague of Police Lieutenant Colonel Thaksin Shinawatra went to search for information and a picture of Mr Somchai Neelapaichit at the Government Identification Information Centre. In addition, Police Lieutenant Colonel Thaksin, himself, stated in an interview to all media on January 13, 2006, the day after the verdict of the First Court, that he knows "that Somchai has passed away because evidence suggests so…"

"As Thaksin was prime minister at that time, this interview must be credible and he must have had enough evidence before saying this.

"3. Contained in the verdict of the First Court, the testimony of a plaintiff witness reveals that "...Police Major General Krisada Phankongchuen received information from Police Lieutenant Colonel Wannaphong Kotcharath that Police Lieutenant Colonel Charnchai Likhitkhanthasorn had met with a known group of people in front of the Crime Suppression Unit, who informed him that they were going to abduct a corrupt lawyer. Later, Police Lieutenant Colonel Charnchai informed Police Colonel Tawee Sodsong about this information..."

"Therefore, Police Colonel Tawee Sodsong, who is now the acting director of the DSI, has the responsibility to clarify whether he knew of Somchai Neelapaichit's disappearance.

"4. To request that the DSI be very careful in this case and to try to compile strong evidence so that the wrongdoers will be prosecuted. The DSI should not hurry to pursue the case in court without relevant and strong evidence. A lack of strong evidence means that the real culprits will not be prosecuted, or that innocent people will be punished for crimes they did not commit.

"5. To request that the Thai government ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, in order to guarantee the safety and protection of everyone from enforced disappearance.

"I strongly believe that the success of the Somchai Neelapaichit case will be determined by the sincerity of the government and the effectiveness of the DSI. Of particular concern is the fact that Police General Sombat Amornwiwat, who was the former supervisor of the five accused persons standing trial in the case before, is now an advisor to the Ministry of Justice. "At the same time, I would like to give my support to every officer who works under the rule of law and tries to bring to justice those people who have either committed crimes or give shelter to human rights violators.

"Lastly, I would like to thank my Thai sisters and brothers who continue to give warm support while facing these obstacles to justice.

"I and my family are constantly receiving friendship from various people in society. This gives me the strength to keep fighting for justice.

Thank you.

The Nation

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