Relatives and human rights groups are urging Thai authorities on Monday to investigate the disappearance of an environmental activist who has worked to help ethnic Karen villagers report illegal activity at Thailand’s largest national park. The man, Por Cha Lee Rakcharoen, known as “Billy,” was briefly detained in Kaengkrachan National Park last Thursday for possessing illegal wild honey, but was released and has not been seen since. Many are seriously concerned for Billy’s fate because Thailand has a record of deadly violence towards land and environmental activists.
He was reported to be heading to meet villagers and activists to prepare for a lawsuit accusing park officials of burning and destroying the homes and property of more than 20 families in the area. Many of the perpetrators of violence towards these activists are rarely brought to justice.
National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwachara called on authorities to find the activist. “Billy is not an ordinary villager who simply went missing. He is a key Karen activist who is fighting in a case in the Administrative Court, and it’s the job of the government and the administrative officials to find out where he might be, whether he is being tortured or even killed,” Niran said.
Billy’s wife and a group of villagers met earlier this week with police and provincial government to urge them to solve the case.