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Murder Probe Opened Over the Killing of Karen Activist “Billy”

The DSI police on Tuesday confirmed the death of Billy, who had disappeared in suspicious circumstances five years ago. Police discovery of his bones in a 200-litre oil drum dumped in a reservoir in Phetchaburi province.

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BANGKOK – Thailand’s investigation into the murder of Karen activist Polajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen should be concluded in three months. Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Pol Colonel Paisit Wongmuang said on Wednesday.

The DSI police on Tuesday confirmed the death of Billy, who had disappeared in suspicious circumstances five years ago. Police discovery of his bones in a 200-litre oil drum dumped in a reservoir in Phetchaburi province.

Paisit said the agency had anticipated some people being skeptical of the DSI’s findings. Saying they had taken time to check the forensic and circumstantial evidence to make a strong case.

Polajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen was last seen on April 17, 2014

Porlajee Rakchongcharoen, known as Billy, was last seen in the custody of Kaeng Krachan National Park officials on April 17, 2014.

Paisit cited as an example the mitochondrial DNA, that showed the bones in the oil drum belonged to Billy.

Paisit said the DSI would take about three months to submit the case report to public prosecutors. The Central Institute of Forensic Science has asked for one month to conduct DNA tests.

Polajee’s case is one of several involving the killing or disappearance of community and environmental activists. A problem in Thailand and many developing countries.

Billy had been leading the Karen community in a lawsuit against park chief Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn over his efforts to forcibly evict them. By burning their homes inside the park — where they had lived for generations — along with their possessions.

Chaiwat acknowledged that Billy had been arrested for illegally collecting wild honey, but said he had been released.

Porlajee, who was 30 years old when he disappeared, is survived by his wife, Phinnapha Phrueksaphan, and their five children.

Porlajee’s case has been on a list compiled by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights of 82 victims.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin that the recent discovery of remains that confirmed the death made Billy’s family eligible for financial compensation.

The Minister urged DSI to punish the suspected influential figures and to protect the witnesses.