Members demand justice for disappeared indigenous activist
ESCR-Net members Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) along with Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT) recently issued a joint statement relating to the disappearance of indigenous Karen human rights defender, Polajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, in Thailand. Billy, who was allegedly forcibly disappeared in 2014, was confirmed dead in an official press statement by the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) of Thailand on 3 September 2019.
In their joint statement, AIPP and NIPT demand further investigation into the disappearance and death of Polajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen and for those responsible to be held accountable. Mr. Rakchongcharoen disappeared after attending a meeting regarding a lawsuit against park officials from Kaeng Krachan National Park for the destruction of Karen housing in 2010-2011. He was allegedly apprehended by members of the Thai police accusing him of illegally gathering wild honey in the national park. The statement also calls on the Thai authorities to take action to solve forest and land related conflict in indigenous territories including ensuring the meaningful participation of indigenous communities.
In a separate statement, ESCR-Net members Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists called on the DSI to “redouble its efforts to identify the perpetrator(s) of Billy’s killing and bring them to justice,”
Attacks on indigenous human rights defenders is a global problem, which was highlighted in an article , “Attacks on indigenous rights defenders should not be ignored”, authored by ESCR-net members in 2018. According to the article, these attacks are often the result of conflicts between actors promoting a development model based on extraction of natural resources and indigenous communities defending their land. According to a recent report by ESCR-Net member, Front Line Defenders, indigenous human rights defenders are still amongst the most vulnerable and 77% of killings of human rights defenders in 2018 targeted those working on land, indigenous or environmental issues.