Thailand: Mrs. Angkhana Wongrachen, wife of Mr. Somchai Neelpaphaijit

Re: Mrs. Angkhana Wongrachen, wife of Mr. Somchai Neelpaphaijit

To: General Surayud Chulanont, Interim Prime Minister; and others

From: Gail Davidson, Director, LRWC

Date: 2007-04-11

LRWC is very concerned about reports of continuing threats against Mrs. Angkhana Wongrachen, wife of Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit, former Chair of the Muslim Lawyers Association and Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Lawyers Association of Thailand who was disappeared in 2004 and murdered. LRWC received a report of an attempt made by the Action Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, to intimidate Mrs. Angkhana Wongrachen after she filed a complaint to the Administrative Court in Bangkok on March 12, 2007 about the failure of police investigation into the abduction, disappearance and murder of her husband in 2004. Her complaint stated that contrary to Thai law, police officers accused in the criminal case connected to Mr. Somchai’s abduction and murder, are still working in the police department, even though the appeal is pending. On March 12, 2007, the same date the complaint was filed, Acting Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police, Pol. Gen. Seripisuth Themiyavet is reported to have threatened Mrs. Angkhana Wongrachen that she ‘would become his enemy if she kept pushing about her husband’s case’.

LRWC is aware that several human rights organizations have requested Government intervention, but to date, it appears that no action has been taken regarding this alleged behavior of Pol. Gen. Seripisuth Themiyavet. LRWC has also received information that the Acting Commissioner General has appointed as a deputy commander, the former head of the Department of Special Investigation, Pol. Gen. Sombat Amornvivat in spite of the fact that Pol. Gen. Sombat is alleged to have obstructed the investigation into Mr. Somchai’s disappearance, and to have failed to address other reports of serious human rights violations made while he was the head of the Department of Special Investigation.

LRWC is concerned that these reports indicate a failure of your government’s commitment to investigate and remedy reports of past human rights violations, including enforced disappearances and murder. We welcomed the news of investigations by the National Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Justice into enforced disappearances during the previous government’s war on drugs during 2003 and 2004.

LRWC urges your government to take all necessary steps to ensure both the safety of Mrs. Angkana Wongrachen and her legal right to continue, free of intimidation, threat and harassment, advocating lawful remedies for the disappearance and murder of her husband. We also urge your government to ensure that immediate steps are taken to ensure that acts of intimidation are properly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, so as to firmly put an end to concerns about impunity of government officials in cases of human rights abuses and intimidation of human rights defenders and their families.

We respectfully urge your government to immediately all actions necessary to carry out the following measures:

1. Ensure that human rights defenders 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. We draw your attention to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

2. Sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 December 2006, and take rapid steps to pass legislation so that enforced disappearance will become a specific offence under Thai criminal law in conformity with this Convention. We were encouraged by a report that on March 28, 2007 a Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced at a seminar at the offices of the National Human Rights Commission that Thailand would soon sign the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

3. Implement 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. We note the HRC’s expressed concern about the number of reported attacks on human rights defenders and community leaders, including intimidation, verbal and physical attacks, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

We respectfully welcome your correspondence to tell us your views and plans regarding these urgent matters.