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Somchai Neelapaijit (Thai - สมชาย นีละไพจิตร) (13 May 1951 – last seen in 2004), a Thai Muslim-lawyer and human rights activist who "disappeared" on 12 March 2004 during Thaksin Shinawatra's regime. On that date, Somchai was last seen in Ramkhamhaeng where eyewitnesses saw four men drag him from his car. He has not been seen since. The case of the (probable) death of Somchai Neelaphaijit has not been solved. In 2016 Department of Special Investigation (DSI) declared the case "closed".
Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is believed by many interested in the case to have played a part in Somchai's disappearance and probable murder. Though his body has not found, the motive is thought to have been Somchai's representing Muslim defendants in terrorism cases. The day after Somchai's disappearance, concerns were publicly raised. In response, Thaksin said, "Oh, don't worry. I understand he had a fight with his wife, and will probably be back home in a day or two."[this quote needs a citation]
At the time of his disappearance, Somchai represented five Muslim suspects allegedly involved in an army camp raid in Narathiwat in January 2004. The incident triggered the interminable unrest in far south Thailand. Somchai, who had worked in the legal profession for 30 years, was outspoken in his call for the army to end martial law, imposed in January 2004, in the region. As of 2017[update] martial law remains in effect in Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat.
In 2006, the Criminal Court sentenced Pol Maj Ngern Thongsuk of the Crime Suppression Division to three years in jail for his connection with Somchai's disappearance. Four other suspects, all policemen accused of robbery and illegal use of force, were acquitted. Pol Maj Ngern later disappeared. His family testified that he died in a landslide accident. The court declared him a missing person.
Prime minister acknowledges official involvement
In 2014 the Bangkok Post reported: "In January 2006, the court acquitted four of the accused but convicted Pol Major Ngern of the relatively minor charge of coercion. Then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra made a significant statement a day after the court verdict acknowledging that Somchai was dead and government officials were implicated".
Status of the case
The investigation into Somchai's fate was launched in 2004. His wife in 2009 published an account of the efforts made by her, legal advisors, and NGOs on Somchai's behalf. As of March 2017[update], the thirteenth anniversary of his disappearance, he is suspected to be dead.
In late-2013 the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said the police file of the case had gone missing, but later claimed it had been found. As of 2014[update] the status of the case and even which department is handling it was unknown.
- "Thailand: Lawyer's Disappearance Darkens Rights Climate". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- Rithdee, Kong (11 March 2017). "Keep Somchai from the black hole of history" (Editorial). Bangkok Post. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "Somchai Neelapaijit case closed, says DSI". Bangkok Post. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "Thai districts impose martial law". BBC News. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
- Achara Ashayagachat (2014-03-05). "Somchai case unresolved 10 years on". Bangkok Post.
- Neelapaichit, Angkhana (March 2009). Reading Between the Lines (PDF) (1st ed.). Bangkok: Working Group on Justice for Peace. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- Laohong, King-oua (19 December 2013). "Wife of missing lawyer slams DSI". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "THAILAND: Ten years without justice for Somchai Neelaphaijit". Asian Human Rights Commission. Hong Kong: Asian Legal Resource Centre. 2014-02-26. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- Duggleby, Luke (2016-05-22). "Murdered After Defending Thailand's Environment" (Photo essay). New York Times. Redux. p. 3. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
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