Villagers in fear of park chief’s return – No sign of missing activist

พื้นที่ทำกินที่ชุมชนบางกลอย ที่ชาวบ้านทำเกษตรปัจจุบัน ประสบกับภัยแล้ง
พื้นที่ทำกินที่ชุมชนบางกลอย ที่ชาวบ้านทำเกษตรปัจจุบัน ประสบกับภัยแล้ง

Phetchaburi: Villagers in Bang Kloy Lang say they fear for their safety when Kaeng Krachan National Park chief Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn returns to his post next Sunday.  “We are concerned about our future,” said Charoen Rakchongcharoen, the elder brother of missing park activist Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen. 

“Most of the time, he [Mr Porlajee] was the one most active in fighting for our right to return to our birthplace. Without him, we don’t know where to start.”

Many are worried about the return of Mr Chaiwat, who was sidelined during an investigation into Mr Porlajee’s disappearance and who is scheduled to resume work on June 15. He had been transferred by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) to an inactive post for a month.

Mr Chaiwat has admitted that he arrested Mr Porlajee for possessing wild honey but claimed to have released him after giving a warning. Mr Porlajee disappeared on April 17.

Almost two months after the Karen human rights activist’s mysterious disappearance, the villagers of Bang Kloy Lang are living in fear and are desperate, Mr Charoen said. They are currently relying on outside activists and independent organisations. They have not appointed anyone to continue Mr Porlajee’s work.

“Whenever I return from town, villagers ask me about the progress in Billy’s case,” Mr Charoen said. “I can’t answer them.”

Since Mr Porlajee went missing, the villagers have been afraid to go anywhere alone for fear of being abducted. Some of them have been frisked and searched by park officials because collecting wood is prohibited in the park area, Mr Charoen said.

Before his disappearance, Mr Porlajee had filed a case against the DNP and the Natural Resources and Environmental Ministry in the Administrative Court over a forced evacuation order in 2011. Led by Mr. Chaiwat, officials removed 20 Karen families from their birthplace in Bang Kloy Bon village and relocated them to the infertile Bang Kloy Lang village in the national park. Their houses were then burned down. The Karen families are still fighting the case and are asking the state to allow them to return to their birthplace.

Meanwhile, Mr Porlajee’s wife Pinnapa Prueksapan, 28, is raising her five children with help from her mother in Pa Deng village, about a four-hour drive from Bang Kloy Lang village.

Pol Col Voradet Suankhlai, superintendent of the Kaeng Krachan police station, said 29 witnesses had been questioned about Billy’s disappearance including a number of villagers, Mr Chaiwat and park officials. Data from telephone signals has also been collected. The Crime Suppression Division, Provincial Police Region 7 and Phetchaburi Provincial Police were also collaborating to find Mr Porlajee. Pol Col Voradet said he had filed a complaint with the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission against Mr Chaiwat for breach of duty.

Paritta Wangkiat
8 june 2014

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