File photo: Den Khamlae
File photo: Den Khamlae

DSI looks for evidence of 2016 activist disappearance

national September 05, 2018 15:19

By Kawintra Jisue
The Nation

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A Department of Special Investigation-led team has combed Nong Rai Kai graveyard and a nearby area of the Thung Kamang Wildlife Sanctuary in Chaiyaphum to find evidence on the reported death of Khok Yao land rights activist Den Khamlae, who disappeared in mid-April 2016, while officials admitted evidence might be hard to find.

"Rainfall washing away evidence posed a major obstacle to the effort. It was more than two years ago and the scene is along a natural waterway and wildlife path. I'm not sure we will find any more evidence," said DSI Security Crime Bureau director Angsuket Wisutwattanasak, who led the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS) officials, police, forestry staff and some 20 members from the Isan land reform network to the scene.

Evidence collected would be forwarded to the CIFS for further tests to clear away doubts over the reported death and to determine the cause of death, he said.

Items found have already been confirmed by relatives to belong to Den. Human remains were found which the CIFS said it was 90 per cent sure belonged to Den, based on DNA from his younger sister.

Angsuket said the operation was planned three to four months earlier but faced postponements due to other commitments until this week.

Meanwhile, many residents and members of the Isan land reform network visited Den's wife Suphap Khamlae to give her support.

Suphap said that she thanked officials for gathering more evidence, adding that she believed Den was dead and she wanted to know how he died.

Several human right defenders or social activists in Thailand have been harassed or disappeared, such as the 2004 disappearance of prominent human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit and the disappearance in 2014 of Karen environmental activist Porlajee "Billy" Rakchongcharoen.

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