BANGKOK (28 November 2016) – The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia expressed concern about the number of failed prosecutions involving murder cases of land rights activists in the South of Thailand, amid increasing restrictions on rights activists.
Speaking after the Region 8 Appellate Court in Surat Thani upheld a decision of the Provincial Court on 15 March 2016 to acquit the sole suspect accused in the 2015 killing of Mr. Chai Bungthonglek, a land rights activist, OHCHR’s acting regional representative Laurent Meillan said lack of accountability was becoming a matter of increasing concern.
The court cited lack of evidence in the case against the suspect charged over the killing of Mr. Chai, a member of Khlong Sai Pattana Community in Surat Thani.
Four people who have been involved in seeking community land title over land that was reportedly encroached by large scale companies in the area have been murdered since 2010. None of the cases have been solved. On 8 April 2016, Suphoj Kangsong, a witness in Mr. Chai’s case and a relative of the victim, was wounded after being shot eight times. The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia has requested the Department of Special Investigation look into this disturbing pattern.
“It is important that the Government undertakes impartial, independent and thorough investigations in all cases of killings and attempted murder in accordance with Thailand’s commitment at its last Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.”
Since the start of the year, at least 15 human rights defenders, including eight women, have faced criminal charges in relation to their work.
The UN Human Rights Office urges the Government to ensure the safety of all human rights defenders and to drop all criminal charges against them.