Perpetrator of the firearm attack remains in his governmental job until investigation committee declares him guilty
[Thailand] A sense of insecurity has persisted in Ban Na Nong Bong since last 12 January, when Mr Thanakrit Inthara, a local public officer, fired against two anti-gold mining protesters. The victims are members of the community-based group of environmental human rights defenders Khon Rak Ban Kerd (KRBK) and the UNME of Anarchy group. The incident remains under investigation after the perpetrator, who is an employee of the Wang Saphung District Security Office, was released on bail not even 24 hours after the attack. Even if security measures have been implemented in the area, the KRBK group continues to feel unsafe and unprotected.
“The work of community human rights defenders plays a key role in ensuring that businesses and governments comply with human rights principles and obligations,” stated Ms Pranom Somwong, Protection International Representative in Thailand, “It is crucial to guarantee their safety and integrity.” She later added that when violence against defenders arises from governmental authorities, the victim’s feelings of insecurity not only persist but grow. Such acts take a very heavy toll on the government’s credibility.
Therefore, we call on the Thai authorities to hold the perpetrators of this attack accountable, to stop tolerating any form of violence against human rights defenders and to double their efforts in ensuring the security of high-risk groups, such as the Khon Rak Ban Kerd.
Irregularities in the performance of the security forces
Mr Prayoon Aranrut, the Wang Saphung District Chief also expressed his concern about the safety of the KRBK group. He ordered the Chor Ror Bor team – a volunteer village security group – to station in the area near the gold mine to support police forces until the end of January. The authorities are now reassessing the situation in the area and additional safety measures might be taken if the villagers request them.
However, the KRBK group has reported several irregularities in the performance of these security forces over the last weeks. For example, once the bidding company Khainapa Steel Limited Partnership finalised the transportation of their acquired ore from the gold mine on 19 January, the Chor Ror Bor team stopped showing up at their duty station within the community. The security team returned a few days later, on 24 January, after KRBK group complained to the District Chief, but they did not stay through the night. Furthermore, on 12 January, KRBK asked for a police patrol team to be set up to ensure the safety of the villagers every night until the end of January, but the police failed to perform their duty for several nights during this period according to the group.
Meanwhile, the gunman, Mr Thanakrit, has not been suspended nor dismissed from his government assignment, as confirmed by Mr Prayoon Aranrut, Wang Saphung District Chief, on 25 January. Thanakrit cannot be fired before the investigation committee formally issues its conclusion because he is a temporary employee.
The Wang Saphung Provincial police station informed that the investigating officer has filed three charges against Mr Thanakrit:
- firearm possession in public spaces;
- firing a weapon in public spaces;
- and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Mr Samnao Kruikratok, Superintendent of the Wang Saphung District Police Station, was asked if attempted murder was included among the charges, since witnesses of the attack stated that the defendant did not shoot into the sky, but directly at the area where the human rights defenders were camping. Mr Kruikratok did not have a direct response, but instead stated that he needed to inquire with the investigation officer why this charge was not included. It may still take up to a month for the police to provide their final statements and opinions to the prosecutor.