Ten years on after the enforced disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit
March 12, 2014 marked the 10th year anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit.
On this occasion, the working committee of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement urging the Thai government to speed up finding the truth about the case and taking legal actions against the perpetrators.
The working committee also expressed concern with the lack of progress in the investigation of the case and that the officers responsible for the case may just end the investigation. It said that the financial compensation paid to the families of the victims of enforced disappearance did not mean that the government was freed from the obligation to restore justice for the victims.
On the same day, a panel discussion on Somchai’s enforced vanishing was held at the faculty of political science of Chulalongkorn University by the Justice for Peace Foundation and the International Committee of Jurists.
Somchai Homla-or, one of the panelists and a member of the Committee for the Reform of Laws, said that enforced disappearances occurred every time there was serious political conflict in Thailand be it the student-led uprising in 1973, the October 6 bloody crackdown on alleged leftist students, the Black May incident in 1992 and the crackdown on red-shirt followers in 2010.
Governments whether they were democratically elected or military dictatorship were guilty of violations of the rights to live a life of the people. Meanwhile, state officials remain devoid of awareness of human rights and lack of check and balance mechanism.
Pokpong Srisanit, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, suggested that a special law be promulgated to deal exclusively with enforced disappearance cases.
Mrs Angkhana Neelapaijit, widow of the missing lawyer and chair of the Justice for Peace Foundation, recalled the day when Somchai was abducted and the relevant events.
Somchai was seen forced into a car by unidentified men near Hua Mark police station in Ramkhamhaeng area on March 12, 2004. The incident took place one day after he lodged complaints to agencies concerned about the beatings and tortures of five suspected insurgents allegedly involved in the raid of an armoury in the Deep South in which 413 weapons mostly M16s were stolen.
Also, his abduction came 13 days after he fiercely criticized the police about their treatment of suspected insurgents and less than a month after he joined a panel discussion on human rights violations in the Far South.
Mrs Angkhana said that the insurgency situation in the Far South was very serious then. Somchai then engaged in a move to collect up to 50,000 signatures to demand the lifting of the martial law. He planned to submit a petition to then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was due to visit Pattani on March 16.
She said that Somchai was regarded by some policemen for being responsible for the acquittal from criminal charges of several suspected insurgents and, therefore, deserved to be made disappear from the face of the earth.
Although Somchai’s case was regarded a special case by the Department of Special Investigation, there has been no progress about the case and the DSI is to propose to put the case on hold on the grounds there are no hard evidences about his disappearance and his body has never been found.
As far as the Yingluck government is concerned, Mrs Angkhana said that financial compensation for families of the victims of enforced disappearance and dead victims was just a remedial measure but it could not restore the human dignity for the families until justice is served.