Pholachi Rakchongcharoen, better known to his friends and family as “Billy,” was a Karen activist, a devoted father, and a loving husband.
In 2014, Billy was working with Karen villagers in Kaeng Krachan National Park to prepare a legal case against park officials for burning their homes and properties in 2010 and 2011.
He was arrested by park officials under the direction of the head of the national park Chaiwat Limlikitaksor for “illegally collecting honey.”
He was never seen alive again. According to Chaiwat, Billy was arrested, questioned and released.
A Department of Special Investigation inquiry found bone fragments at the bottom of a lake in the national park. The DSI said that the fragments were found inside an oil drum that had been set alight and said that the victim was likely tortured, dismembered and burned to conceal the evidence. They said that the skull belonged to Billy as the DNA from the skull matched his mother’s.
Chaiwat and three park officials were charged with Billy’s murder by public prosecutors.
On Monday, they announced that they had dropped their case. The prosecutors said there was a lack of evidence and that the DNA findings by the DSI were “insufficient.”
Rights groups criticized the move and used the opportunity to press the Thai government to introduce an enforced disappearance law.
“Billy’s case has larger implications for Thailand: cases of unresolved enforced disappearances continue to plague the country and taint its international reputation,” Amnesty International Thailand said in a statement.
According to the Cross Cultural Foundation, Thailand must introduce new legislation otherwise all perpetrators need to do to escape murder prosecution is to successfully hide the bodies.