Enforced Disappearance of Mr. Thanes Sodsri

Re: Enforced Disappearance of Mr. Thanes Sodsri

To: General Surayud Chulanont- Prime Minister and others

From: C.A. Morris, BA, LLB, LLM

Date: 2006-12-12

We are writing to express our grave concern about an apparent shooting and enforced disappearance of Mr. Thanes Sodsri in Ratchaburi. Mr. Thanes is an environmental activist who was reported missing from his home on December 1, 2006. Investigators found blood and bullet casings in his home. We understand that two weeks before his disappearance, Mr. Thanes submitted a videorecording to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment showing illegal forest destruction by a local Ratchaburi political leader in an protected forest area. We also understand that Mr. Thanes was to testify in court against several persons in case involving forest encroachment.

We hope your government is now taking urgent and effective measures to determine the whereabouts and to ensure the well-being of Mr. Thanes. We also hope your government is doing everything possible to ensure that this crime is properly and promptly investigated and that all perpetrators will be brought to justice.

We are very disheartened by the report of Mr. Thane’s disappearance. This is the first disappearance of an activist since the beginning of your administration in September, 2006. LRWC is monitoring Thailand’s human rights situation closely because of the very serious concerns about lack of investigation by the previous administration of a number of deaths and enforced disappearances of human rights defenders and environmental activists.

We urge your government to ensure the adequate protection of all human rights defenders and environmental activists working in Thailand. Your administration has promised to uphold all of Thailand’s international obligations during your interim government, and accordingly we draw to your attention the human rights principles in the following instruments and reports:

  • The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998 which is intended to ensure that human rights defenders and environmental protection workers are able to conduct their work in safety, and that all attacks against them are promptly and competently investigated by independent authorities, and that those believed to be responsible are brought to justice under charges appropriate to the gravity of the offence;
  • UN Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Draft International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
  • The recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) issued in July 2005 regarding Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which Thailand remains a State Party. The HRC expressed concern about the number of reported incidents against human rights defenders and community leaders, including intimidation, verbal and physical attacks, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. We note that the HRC’s Concluding Observations supported the idea of government cooperation with civil society organizations, including human rights organizations.

We respectfully request a response to our letter informing us of the status of the investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Thanes and other human rights defenders and environmental activists who have disappeared in Thailand.