By Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
The plea was made at a “Mystery of Extra-judicial Killings” panel discussion on Saturday at the Student Christian Centre, at which law experts urged transparency in the way the authorities handle such cases.
A Mee Ma, whose son Abe Sae Moo was killed extra-judicially last year, said she had rejected a monetary offer by unidentified officials seeking to settle the case.
“They offered us Bt300,000, but I told them, ‘You killed my son – I won’t take that money!’ ”
Abe was shot dead by military officials on February 18, 2017, in what they claimed was “an act of self-defence”. Officials claimed the ethnic Lisu youth had drugs in his possession and attempted to shoot at them and throw a bomb.
Abe’s body was found holding a packet of drugs in his left hand and a bomb in his right hand, but his mother and village chief claimed he was left-handed. A motorcyclist driving past the scene also insisted the youth brandished no weapons.
“We are poor, but we are not drug dealers,” the mother said. “If I took their money, the soldiers would be satisfied. Next time they’d kill others.”
The Lisu are an ethnic minority group with many members living in Chiang Mai’s Chiang Dao district.
Abe’s was not the only death blamed on military officials. About a month later, on March 17, 2017, Chaiyapoom Pasae, a Lahu youth activist, was shot dead.
He and a friend were travelling in a car when they were stopped at a checkpoint for a drug search. Military officials claimed Chaiyapoom had drugs, resisted arrest and attempted to throw a bomb at them, forcing them to kill him in self-defence.
But public suspicions grew after a CCTV recording of the incident went missing.
“We have evidence that the footage from the six cameras was copied [before it was deleted],” said Rassada Manurassada, the lawyer who handled the case for Chaiyapoom’s family.
Maitri Jamreonsuksakul, a relative of Chaiyapoom, made an appeal during the discussion.
“Please look at us Lahu and other tribes as humans,” he said. “Justice should be equally given to everybody – to us and to people at the grassroots. Please pave a clear path for us to have the same justice as those from well-to-do families.”
Malee Sittikreangkrai of Chiang Mai University’s Centre for Ethnic Studies and Development noted that ethnic minorities were often associated with deforestation and drug dealing.
“They are seen as threats to society. Their ethnicity is used to create hatred. As a result, the state can abuse its power and use violence against these people and the public ignores the injustice.”
The day Chaiyapoom was shot dead, a large number of methamphetamine tablets were allegedly found hidden in his car, but suspicion lingered among observers in an area where fraudulent charges of drug possession are not uncommon.
“There are many cases when police put drugs in civilians’ hands and force a drug possession charge,” Kanchanaburi provincial prosecutor Namtae Meeboonsarang said.
According to Angkhana Neelaphaijit, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, as many as 35 extra-judicial executions occurred under the Thaksin Shinawatra government in the early 2000s and 41 civilians lost their lives during the anti-drugs “war” launched at the time.
“In a country where crime-suppression policy is strong, the people involved need to have great transparency,” said Sumitchai Hattasan of the Human Rights Lawyers Association.
“In a country where forensic science police don’t collect evidence at the crime scene themselves but receive the evidence from investigators, how can we control extra-judicial killings?” he asked.
Sanhawan Srisod, a national legal adviser for Southeast Asia at the International Commission of Jurists, said she believed Thailand needed to implement the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.
“Authorities responsible for examining extra-judicial cases must not be from the same agency or authority accused in the death, or be influenced by them,” she said.