“Billy” murder suspect reinstated at Kaeng Krachan NP

Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn, former chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park, has been reinstated despite facing charges over the disappearance and alleged homicide of a Karen rights activist. The charges include premeditated murder, criminal intimidation with weapons, unlawful detention, and concealing a corpse.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Jatuporn Buruspat signed the order to reinstate Chiawat, effective from October 1.

Kaeng Krachan Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering three national parks and the Mae Nam Phachi Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Thailand on the border with Myanmar. The property is home to the critically endangered Siamese Crocodile and the endangered Asiatic Wild Dog.

Father of a young family, Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, was last seen alive at Kaeng Krachan on 17 April 2014 when he was arrested at the park’s Ma Rew checkpoint by park superintendent Chaiwat and four rangers who accused the activist of collecting wild honey in the forest without a permit.

In June 2018, the Supreme Court found Chaiwat guilty of setting fire to more than 100 Karen homes in the park and ordered him to pay about 50,000 baht per house to six plaintiffs, but in the same ruling, the court banned the displaced ethnic Karens from returning to their homes because they did not have any property deeds.

Billy had been actively campaigning for the rights of Karen villagers to live in Kaeng Krachan park. Searches conducted in 2019 found fragments of a human skull in the Kaeng Krachan reservoir. DNA analysis of the shards of bone matched that of Billy’s mother.

"Billy" murder suspect reinstated at Kaeng Krachan NP | News by Thaiger
The Karen are best known for the neck rings worn by their women.

Thailand has no law on forced disappearance, so villagers from the Karen Network for Culture and Environment had to file suit against the alleged perpetrators themselves. Chaiwat and four colleagues were alleged to have been involved. The case is under investigation by several agencies but very little progress has been made.

When Chaiwat was made a suspect in the disappearance and death of Billy, he was transferred from his post of director to a non-job at the natural resources and environment secretariat. On April 2, 2021, the ministry hit Chaiwat with graft charges and removed him from government service because of the Billy case. Chaiwat then took his complaint to Phetchaburi Administrative Court, and in July the court ordered the ministry to reinstate him.

When Kaeng Krachan was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2021, controversy surrounded the government’s long-standing campaign to remove the indigenous Karen from their village in Kaeng Krachan. The Thai government had previously made two nominations for the site, the first in 2016.

The trial will begin on December 26.

"Billy" murder suspect reinstated at Kaeng Krachan NP | News by Thaiger

SOURCE The Nation

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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