[Statement/Solidarity] Political will is key to end Enforced Disappearance in Thailand -AFAD

AFAD Statement on the 9th Anniversary of Somchai’s Disappearance
12 March, 20013
Political will is key to end Enforced Disappearance in Thailand

AFADIt’s been nine years since the prominent Thai human rights lawyer, Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit was forcibly taken and made to disappear on 12 March 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. Before he disappeared, Mr. Somchai was assisting torture victims for legal remedies against Thai security forces in the southern province of Thailand.

For nine long years, Somchai’s families did practically everything to find him and to seek for justice by bringing his case at the national and international bodies. However, nine years have passed, until now justice remains very elusive.

The decision of the Appeal Court on 11 March 2011 reversing the 2006 ruling of the Court of First Instance which convicted Police Officer Ngern Thong for robbery and battery case is not just a denial of Mr. Somchai family’s right to know the truth behind his disappearance, but it also bared the naked fact that Thailand’s criminal justice system is miserably incapable of securing public accountability and ending impunity from all forms of human rights violations.

AFAD recognizes the Thai’s government’s assurance that human rights is one of its top priorities as shown in its signing of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on January 9, 2012, and for the Cabinet resolution to provide compensation of Bt7.5 million to Somchai’s family, and Bt500,000 each for 30 families of the disappeared in the South. However, without a strong political will to find the truth behind the disappearance, to punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law, truth and justice will remain incomplete.

As long as human rights violations particularly enforced disappearances continue to persist with impunity, human rights will be a far-fetched reality in Thailand. While financial compensation is an important obligation of States and an inherent right of the victims and their families, knowing the truth, punishing the perpetrators and preventing enforced disappearances from happening again should be the ultimate end.

Today, we join hands with the families, friends and colleagues of Atty. Somchai Neelaphaijit in keeping his memory alive in our hearts and minds as we continue our quest for justice to all victims of human rights violations in Thailand and in the world particularly those who are subjected to enforced disappearances.

We also call on the Thai government to walk its talk by reforming its justice system and to pass domestic measures to criminalize enforced disappearance in its penal law. It also needs to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in order to complete protection mechanism against enforced disappearance.

For Thailand to achieve genuine and lasting peace and reconciliation, it must not only come into terms with its past but must also look forward to a brighter future free from enforced disappearance and other forms of social violence.

MUGIYANTO                                                     MARY AILEEN BACALSO

Chairperson                                                         Secretary-General

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