While the Thai government is in the process of adopting a law on enforced disappearances, which are not yet criminalized in Thailand, we have received disappointing news on one missing human rights defender:
On 12 October 2016, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) decided to suspend its investigation on the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit, a Muslim human rights lawyer who went missing on 12 March 2004. Somchai represented defendants who were arrested under martial law and claimed to be tortured at military barracks in Southern Border Provinces.
Back in 29 December 2015, the Supreme Court of Thailand in Somchai’s case upheld the 2011 Appeals Court decision to overturn the conviction against four police officers accused of robbery and coercion by forcibly abducting the human rights lawyer. The Appeals Court in its decision stated that there was insufficient evidence against the convicted police officers. It also ruled that Somchai’s family could not stand as joint plaintiff.
We urge the Thai Government to take decisive and sustained efforts to investigate the whereabouts of Somchai Neelapaijit and all other people who have disappeared in Thailand.
Somchai Neelapaijit was one of the 37 human rights defenders featured in Protection International’s photo exhibition “For those who died trying”, a collaboration with photographer Luke Duggleby.
Somchai’s memory also inspired one of four string quartet musical elegies composed by musician Frank Horvat. Listen to the musical dedication here: http://frankhorvat.com/composition/the-thailand-hrds/.