Thaksin’s war on drugs kin still wait for justice – Mass killing of tribesmen remains unsolved

Thaksin's war on drugs kin still wait for justice - Mass killing of tribesmen remains unsolved - Bangkok Post, September 6, 2007
Among 2,500 victims from the first three months of the Thaksin Shinawatra government's war on drugs, the mass killing of six Mien hilltribesmen at Ban Pha Lung, once known as a heroin production base, in Chiang Rai's Muang district appeared to be the country's biggest case. The six Mien (or Yao) tribesmen, including village chief Kiattisak Saksrichompoo, were shot and killed by gunmen while on their way home from a meeting at the office of the tambon Huay Chompoo administration organisation on Feb 27, 2003.
Two days before the shooting, Kiattisak had led the men who were drug addicts and small-time drug dealers to surrender to authorities in Muang district...


[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from just a few years ago, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

THAKSIN'S WAR ON DRUGS / KIN STILL WAIT FOR JUSTICE
Mass killing of tribesmen remains unsolved
ANUCHA CHAROENPO

Chiang Rai - Among 2,500 victims from the first three months of the Thaksin Shinawatra government's war on drugs, the mass killing of six Mien hilltribesmen at Ban Pha Lung, once known as a heroin production base, in Chiang Rai's Muang district appeared to be the country's biggest case. The six Mien (or Yao) tribesmen, including village chief Kiattisak Saksrichompoo, were shot and killed by gunmen while on their way home from a meeting at the office of the tambon Huay Chompoo administration organisation on Feb 27, 2003.

Two days before the shooting, Kiattisak had led the men who were drug addicts and small-time drug dealers to surrender to authorities in Muang district.

After they returned to the village, some villagers saw four strangers show up in a pick-up truck.

One of them asked where the village chief's house was, saying they were assigned to make a survey of road conditions for improvements.

''I don't actually know who killed my husband but they [the killers] must pay the price for what they did to him and my family,'' said Laiwang Sae-phan, 45, wife of the late village chief.

Mrs Laiwang said her eight-year-old youngest daughter kept asking about her father, and she did not have enough time to take care of her.

The widow, now the family breadwinner, grows lychee to make a living but its price continued to fall due to oversupply of the fruit in the past few years.

About a decade before he was killed, Kiattisak was arrested on a heroin trafficking charge. He spent five years in detention before the Supreme Court acquitted him for lack of evidence. Authorities believed the village chief remained the most influential figure in the area.

Surapong Boonyuen of Chiang Rai's Muang district police station, who heads the investigation into the six murders, denied that authorities had anything to do with the killing of the tribesmen.

Drug traffickers were beileved to be behind the murders since Kiattisak had disclosed to authorities opium plantations near his village.

His information led to the arrest of four people, the officer said.

Pol Lt-Col Surapong also said the case has become stalled due to lack of evidence that could lead to the arrest of suspected gunmen.

''So far we have no witnesses to the killings,'' the officer said but added that police were ready to investigate further if fresh evidence turned up.

Mrs Laiwang said her husband had never been involved in the drugs trade.

Kiattisak was a good man and a dedicated social worker who liked to help other people, she said.

''Had he really committed any wrongdoing, he should have been arrested and prosecuted,'' she said.

Veena Sae-tuen, 30, the wife of another murder victim U-kuay, said she had had a hard life since her husband died.

She had no permanent job and recently decided to take a new husband, hoping he would help take care of her and her two children.

"I have never received any help from the government or local authorities. Local police came to the village to question me and left without telling me anything until today,'' she said.

Manwang Sae-phan, 48, the mother of another murder victim, Boonma, said the death of eldest son was her greatest loss since he used to be the family breadwinner.

''I want the government to help me out of this trouble but I don't know exactly what to say and do,'' she said.


Also: How many died in Thai drug purges?
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