It has been four years since Somchai Neelaphaijit disappeared; four long years of heartbreak for his family, four years of unanswered questions.
Somchai did not disappear by accident, but by force. Yet despite wide publicity and persistent efforts to hold the culprits to account, Thailand’s criminal justice system has utterly failed a person who in life had not failed it.
Somchai was a lawyer with a keen sense of justice, and a good one at that. He took on cases that others wouldn’t touch, cases that didn’t earn him any friends in high places. He successfully defended accused terrorists and separatists. He set up a free legal aid service and received a national award in acknowledgement of his work.
Prior to disappearing, Somchai met with five young men in police custody who said that they had been tortured. According to letters that he prepared on their behalf, they had been kicked, electrocuted and urinated upon. One had been hanged from the hook of a toilet door and hit on the head with a lump of wood.
On March 11, 2004 Somchai publicly accused the police of torture and said that he would take the case to the highest levels. Coming from him, this was no idle warning. Someone took it seriously. Continue reading