Wife of missing human-rights lawyer taks case to Yingluck
The wife of human-rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit has written an open letter to PM Yingluck Shinawatra, calling for progress in the abduction and alleged murder of her husband.
Somchai has been missing since he was taken by police in 2004, during the tenure of Yingluck's brother Thaksin.
In her letter, Angkhana Neelapaijit criticises the Department of Special Investigation's focus on what she describes as "political cases".
"I am writing this letter to you as you are in charge of the DSI. I want to bring to your attention the ineffectiveness and unwillingness of the government and the DSI to solve the case of Somchai," she said. "It is very obvious that in recent times the DSI has simply been concentrating on political cases, particularly those against the opposition party, but at the same time, has neglected cases that affect ordinary people, even though they are victims of human-rights abuse perpetuated by state officials who take sides with the government."
Yingluck is also the chairperson of the Committee on Special Cases. "Previously, I wrote to ask the Justice Minister Pol General Pracha Promnok about progress in the investigation of Somchai's case. He gave me a one-page summary prepared by the DSI indicating there had been no progress in the investigation and in bringing the perpetrators to justice. This is despite the case having been in the DSI's hands for eight years," she said in the letter.
Angkhana reminded Yingluck of the prominence of Somchai's case, which gained attention both locally and internationally.
"The enforced disappearance of Somchai was the first case of its kind in Thailand in which the affected parties were able to bring a case and secure an indictment. In addition, his case is not just known in Thailand, but all over the world. It has elicited attention from national and international rights organisations all along, including the UN and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), since it was a crime of enforced disappearance committed by law-enforcement officers. Apart from the five police officers who were the accused, a number of high-ranking police officers are thought to have been involved and have not been brought to justice."
Angkhana praised Yingluck's government for signing the UN Inter-national Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Dis-appearance on January 9, 2012, and for the Cabinet resolution to provide compensation of Bt7.5 million to Somchai's family, and Bt500,000 each for 30 families of the disappeared in the South. However, she said there must be progress in investigations and legal proceedings in these cases.
"[Financial] remedies are an indispensable right of the victims. But apart from upholding the right to access the truth, it is equally important to uphold justice and ensure that human rights violations do not recur.
"Monetary remedies are not enough to erase the trauma and wounds in the hearts of survivors. I believe that only through access to truth and justice will the dignity of the survivors be restored, leading to lasting forgiveness and reconciliation.
"I hope that you, as PM, are willing to listen to the voice of people who have been abused by government officers. The abuse took place during the tenure of a leadership from the same political party as yours. I hope that you will take responsibility for what happened and will not discriminate in enforcing the law, and that you will not allow the culture of impunity to continue in Thailand."