Local news

Ex-park chief, accomplices face premeditated murder charge in Billy’s death

ATTORNEY General Singchai Thaninsorn issued an order based on a dissenting opinion to charge the former head of Kaeng Krachan National Park and three other accomplices with the premeditated murder of Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, or Billy, the Karen leader of Pong Luk Bang Kloy village, Matichon newspaper this afternoon (August 15).

Mr. Prayut Petchkun, a deputy spokesman of the Attorney General’s Office, said the case has now been sent to Mr. Pornchai Chonvanichkul, head of  the Special Litigation Office, to call the accused in to face a lawsuit on this count in court.

Being charged for premediated murder are are Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, the first defendant, Mr. Boontan Busarakham, the second defendat, Mr. Thanaset or Paitoon Chamathes, the third defendant, and Mr. Krisanapong Jitthes, the fourth defendant. They also face charges of covering up the crime, detaining another person and hiding the dead body.

Previously in January 2020, the Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued an order not to prosecute the four suspects on several charges filed by Ms. Pinnapa Pruksaphan and two others.

At that time, Mr. Thapana Jaiklom, the head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, sent the case of the Special Case Division 1 to consider by setting up a working group to do so. 

The working group said there was insufficient evidence to sue the four suspects for malfeasance and neglecting to perform their duties.

The panel added that there were no witnesses to link the four suspects to Billy’s death and was of the opinion that they should not be sued on this count as well.

Subsequently, the head of the Department of Special Investigation disagreed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office’s order, and according to the procedure, submitted the case to the Attorney General who today decided to pursue the case.

According to Wikipedia, Billy was a Karen environmental and community activist who was last seen alive in Kaeng Krachan National Park on April 17, 2014. He was arrested at a park checkpoint by park superintendent Chaiwat  and four of his men for allegedly illegally collecting wild honey in the forest. 

Three years earlier, in 2011, Billy had filed a lawsuit against Chaiwat over the May 2011 destruction and burning of houses, and eviction of over 20 Karen families living in Jai Paen Din, meaning ‘heart of the land’ in the park’s Pong Luk Bang Kloy village, in the Huai Mae Phriang sub-district of Kaeng Krachan district. 

The national park chief later swore that Billy had been arrested and released on the same day after being questioned for possession of an illegal wild bee honeycomb and six bottles of honey. There are no official records of his arrest or detention. Following Billy’s supposed arrest he was never seen alive again.

 Searches conducted from April–August 2019 discovered human bone fragments in the Kaeng Krachan Dam reservoir. DNA tests of the fragments matched those conducted on Billy’s mother, leading the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to conclude that the bones were Billy’s and that he had been murdered.

CAPTIONS: 

Top: Attorney General Singchai Thaninsorn, right, and  former head of Kaeng Krachan National Park Mr. Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn. Photo: Matichon

Insert: An image of Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, or Billy, a prominent ethnic Karen activist, who was last seen in government custody at Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province in April 2014. Photo: Human Rights Watch and published by Wikipedia


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