May 13, 2014 00:00 By Pongphon Sarnsamak The Nation
Chaiwat says he has no influence on probe; seeks move for transparency
THE HEAD of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn, has reportedly sought a transfer – for at least a month – amid pressure over the disappearance of prominent Karen activist Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen.
Billy went missing on April 17 soon after Chaiwat reportedly questioned him about wild-bee honey he had in his possession.
Chaiwat insisted yesterday that he was not a person who has influence over local authorities investigating the disappearance of Billy. He said he had asked for a one-month transfer to Ratchaburi’s Protected Areas Regional Office 3 (Ban Pong) – to show sincerity and make way for a fair investigation.
About 100 residents from Bang Kloy and Pong Leuk villages in Phetchaburi called on the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation yesterday to transfer the park chief because of his alleged link to Billy’s disappearance.
“The removal of Chaiwat from his position at the national park would help other authorities speed up their investigation of Billy’s case,” said Phreu Odecha, who led a group of Karen at the protest.
The villagers demonstrated at the department’s head office. They had dozens of hand-made banners demanding that agencies, including the department, step up their efforts to resolve the case.
“Those involved in the disappearance of Billy must be punished,” Phreu Odecha said.
Billy’s wife Pinnapa Preuksaphan, 28, joined the rally to beg the people who “abducted” her husband to show mercy. “I am here to ask you to release him,” she said.
With Billy missing for 22 days, her life had completely changed. She said she now faced a lot of trouble, having to manage all things by herself while taking care of five children.
Niphon Chotibal, acting director-general of the department, has said that park chief Chaiwat told him he had met Billy – but only to ask about the wild-bee honey and that Billy was allowed to go home after the questioning. He had university-student trainees as witnesses.
Samak Donnapi, director of the National Parks Bureau, said Chaiwat had expressed his sincerity before a group of senior officials during a visit to Khao Yai National Park last week. He had asked senior officials to remove him temporarily from the park in the name of transparency during the investigation. Chaiwat’s temporary transfer would take effect by Thursday.
Separately, a social media campaign called “#weallbilly” has been launched to highlight the issue of forced disappearances in Thailand.
Under the campaign, people are invited to post pictures, their name and an introduction message saying that they are Billy, who is reportedly the most recent forced disappearance in Thailand.