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“28693”,”3/14/2005 10:58″,”05BANGKOK1842″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,


“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.


“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001842






E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2015







Classified By: DCM Alexander A. Arvizu. Reason: 1.4 (d)


1. (C) SUMMARY: One year after the disappearance of a

prominent Muslim human rights attorney, the Law Society of

Thailand called for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to

establish an independent committee to investigate the

disappearance and presumed death of Somchai Neelapaijit. The


he was pressured by the former Minster of Justice to withdraw

an appeal to the Royal Thai Police to have Somchai\’s case

transferred to the Department of Special Investigations (DSI)

because \”influential persons\” in the Police and DSI were

responsible for Somchai\’s death and therefore a higher-level

inquiry was too politically sensitive. As a series of other

commemorative events in Bangkok and Southern Thailand

continued, PM Thaksin stated that the Thai government \”would

get the truth\” about Somchai\’s disappearance. END SUMMARY


2. (U) On March 11-12, the Law Society of Thailand,

Chulalongkorn University, various human rights NGOs and the

Islamic Center of Thailand sponsored a series of events to

commemorate the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of

noted Muslim human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelapaijit.

Somchai was last seen on March 12, 2004 in Bangkok. He was

on his way to meet a colleague who was working with him to

defend 5 Thai Muslim men accused in the January 4, 2004 raid

on an army camp in Narathiwat province, where a large cache

of weapons was stolen. The raid left 4 Thai soldiers dead

and marked the beginning of an upsurge in violence in

Thailand\’s 3 southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and

Narthiwat that to date has left over 600 people dead.

Somchai\’s clients had been transferred to a prison in Bangkok

from a Crime Suppression Division facility after he appealed

for their move because of alleged torture by police in the

South. Somchai was recently described by Human Rights Watch

Asia as a local \”Muslim folk hero\” for his work (Ref A).


3. (U) Five Thai policemen have been charged with robbery and

kidnapping in Somchai\’s case. Their trial is scheduled to

begin August 9, 2005. Contrary to earlier reports, the five

men are still on active duty after posting bail in midyear

2004. The prosecutor in Somchai\’s case has stated that since

neither Somchai\’s body nor the murder weapon have been found,

murder charges cannot be filed against any of the five.


4. (U) On March 11, The President of Law Society of

Thailand, Dej-Udom Krairit, held a press conference to call

upon PM Thaksin to appoint a special committee, comprised of

RTG, professional association and NGO representatives to

further investigate the case of Somchai. They urged Thaksin

to demonstrate his commitment to statements made in his March

10 inaugural address, where he noted a willingness to uphold

human rights and engage NGOs in a dialogue about civil rights

in Thailand (Ref B). On March 12, during his weekly radio

address, PM Thaksin — in a response that suggested he was

answering the appeal — stated that the judicial process

continued in Somchai\’s case but that, \”Sometimes, it\’s not

easy when those responsible are silent.\” He added, however,

that the RTG was close to understanding fully what had

happened. The Law Society\’s call for an independent inquiry

was timed with a petition to King Bhumibol by the Hong-Kong

based Asian Human Rights Commission to intervene in Somchai\’s



5. (C) XXXXXX revealed to Poloff in a private conversation

that the Law Society had submitted an official request to the

Ministry of Justice that Somchai\’s case be transferred to the

Department of Special Investigations (DSI) at the MOJ from

the regular Thai police. XXXXX said former Justice Minister

Phonthep Thepkanjana had told him personally that he must

withdraw the petition because \”influential people\” in both

the DSI and the Thai police were involved in Somchai\’s

presumed death and therefore the issue was too \”political\” to

handle. Furthermore, Phongthep reportedly implied it would

be fruitless to refer the case to DSI, since those involved

in Somchai\’s disappearance would thwart a truthful inquiry.

(Note: Phonthep\’s replacement as Justice Minister is Suwat

Liptapanlop, who previously served as Deputy Minister and is

associated with the former Chart Pattana party which folded

into the governing Thai Rak Thai party last year. End Note.)


6. (C) At a March 11 seminar sponsored by Chulalongkorn

University\’s Faculty of Political Science, Somchai\’s eldest

daughter, Prathapjit Neelapaijit, a 4th year Political

Science student at the university, eloquently recalled how

her father taught her to be humble, but to tell the truth.

\”My father fought for the human rights of others, but in the

end, could not defend his own right to life.\” During

Poloff\’s private conversations with Prathapjit and Somchai\’s

widow, Angkhanaa Neelapaijit, the family expressed their

thanks to the United States for highlighting Somchai\’s case

in the 2004 Country Human Rights Report. Poloff assured them

of our continuing support for efforts to see justice for

Somchai, which he reiterated at a candle light ceremony on

the night of March 12 at Thailand\’s revered Democracy



7. (U) At that ceremony, Somchai\’s family and NGO activists

draped a large white banner with a portrait of Somchai in red

and black across the face of the monument, which is centrally

located in \”old\” Bangkok, near the Grand Palace. The banner

read: \”Somchai, 365 days later, the disappearance of one

means the disappearance of justice.\” Another event is

scheduled later this month to be held at the Prince of

Songkhla University\’s Pattani campus. Academics and NGO

activists are expected to speak and an exhibition about

Somchai\’s life and work will be featured.

8. (C) COMMENT: There is some positive momentum gathering in

the public discourse about human rights abuses in southern

Thailand. It\’s expected that former Prime Minister Anand

Panyarachun will announce the members of the National

Reconciliation Commission later this week. Thaksin\’s

comments about Somchai\’s case following a week highlighting

police involvement in his disappearance and the absence of

justice are certainly welcome. As the new cabinet is sworn

in later today, and new ministers settle into their new

duties, there exists an important opportunity for them to

uphold their oath and seek the truth for Somchai and his

family. END COMMENT.



Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:51 am

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