BANGKOK — The Department of Special Investigation said Tuesday that bone fragments of a Karen community rights activist missing since 2014 have been found.
At a presser on Tuesday, the Department of Special Investigation said that bone fragments belonging to Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, who went missing after being detained in Kaeng Krachan National Park in April 2014, match those of his mother.
The bone fragments were found in May inside a 200-liter oil tank submerged in water near a suspension bridge inside Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province.
“The tank that was found was burnt. The bones were also burnt,” DSI deputy chief Kornwat Panpraphakorn said.
The DSI said parts of the bone fragments, which came from the skull, share DNA with Billy’s mother, Pairoh Rakchongcharoen.
Activists have accused then-director of Kaeng Krachan National Park Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn of engineering the disappearance of the local Karen activist.
Several suspects have been questioned, but officials refused to name them and said that the investigation is still ongoing.
Chaiwat and several park officials briefly detained Billy on April 17, 2014 to reprimand him for “wild honey theft” but claim they later released him without charge. Billy, a campaigner for community rights, had not been seen since. His friends and family fear the 30-year-old activist was abducted and murdered for his opposition to the government’s eviction efforts.
No chance of survival
A written press release issued by the investigation committee today concluded that the burning of the bones was an attempt to cover up the murder, reasoning the bones must have been exposed to flames between 200 to 300 degrees celsius. The committee called it “a heinous crime.”
More than one investigator at the presser stressed that the Karen activist could not possibly be alive as the bone fragments came from vital parts of the body, such as the left side of Billy’s skull.
DSI Chief Pol. Col. Paisit Wongmuang refused to spell out how Billy might have died, though he acknowledged the burnt state of the bones and oil tank. Four burnt wooden sticks and two metal rods have also been found.
“Whether he died through torture is something we will look into through collecting evidence,” Paisit also said.
Former National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit posted on Facebook after the press conference that the two metal rods may have been used to lock the metal drum’s lid in place while the body burned.
When asked about the significance of the two metal rods by a reporter, the DSI refused to elaborate.
Divers located the underwater oil drum by using sonar machines.
Nearby, investigators also found 20 more bone fragments underwater in August, which are awaiting DNA tests.
The DSI has asked anyone with information regarding the case to call their center at 1202.
This is a developing story and may be updated without notice.
Additional reporting Asaree Thaitrakulpanich and Tappanai Boonbandit