Former park chief escapes charges in murder of Karen activist ‘Billy’

Porlajee ‘Billy’ Rackchongcharoen, his child and wife Pinnapha Phrueksapan prior to his 2014 disappearance. Photo: Pinnapha Phrueksapan
Porlajee ‘Billy’ Rackchongcharoen, his child and wife Pinnapha Phrueksapan prior to his 2014 disappearance. Photo: Pinnapha Phrueksapan

The widow of a Karen land-rights activist said this morning she was disappointed and saddened that prosecutors have dropped murder charges against the four national park officials beleived responsible for his death.

Pinnapa “Mueno” Prueksapa, who was present when prosecutors announced this morning that the case had been dropped due to a “lack of evidence,” told reporters that she was “disappointed” and “saddened” by the decision, which came after rare hope was raised that someone would face justice for death of Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen.

“It’s impossible for someone to just disappear. There has to be a cause,” Pinnapa said.

Prayuth Petchakhun, deputy spokesman for the attorney general announced Monday that no serious charges would be filed against former park director Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn and three others — Boontan Bussarakam, Thanaset Samtet and Krisanapong Jittes — because they had neither eyewitness testimony nor strong evidence implicating the four in the murder.

There is no disputing he was last seen alive in April 2014 being detained by the four, led by Chaiwat. Chaiwat at the time headed the Kaeng Krachan National Park where Billy was protesting the destruction by arson of homes belonging to ethnic Karen.

According to Prayuth, Billy was taken by the four accused but said that some witnesses said they saw him released from their custody. 

Controversially, he said there’s no clear evidence Billy was actually dead since his body hasn’t been found, despite the fact that a burned body found underwater in a barrel in the park contained DNA that matched Billy’s mother, Poroh Rakchongcharoen.

That was five years after he went missing, and Billy’s skeletal remains were found in early 2019 in a 200-liter oil drum near a bridge in Kaeng Krachan.

Thailand has no enforced disappearance law, meaning that no murder happened legally if there’s no body. The September announcement that Billy’s remains had been found by the Department of Special Investigation, which vowed to find answers in the case, created expectations that Chaiwat would be prosecuted.

Pinnapa, who advocated for justice for her husband since his death, said she would fight on and pursue the matter in court.

Billy was on his way to meet other members of the Karen ethnic community protesting eviction from their lands in the national park on April 17, 2014, when he was arrested by park superintendent Chaiwat Limlikit-akson.

Related:

Karen Activist ‘Billy’ was burned and stuffed in oil drum: DSI 

Bones of ‘disappeared’ Karen activist ‘Billy’ found after 5 years 

Human rights concerns torpedo Thai UNESCO hopes as Bagan gets nod

U.N. says Thailand leaves legal loophole for torture, disappearances

Special Investigations cops to re-open book on rights activist — four years after he disappeared

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