Military withholds CCTV footage of Lahu activist killing

A month after the summary killing of a young Lahu activist by a soldier, the police have revealed that the military has not yet sent the CCTV footage of the crime scene to them.

On 17 April 2017, Pol Col Mongkhon Samphawaphon revealed to BBC Thai that the police have not received CCTV footage at the checkpoint where the Lahu activist Chaiyapoom Pasae was killed on 17 March.

The police submitted a request to the military for the footage. However, the military unit whose personnel is responsible for the killing has not yet sent it to the police investigator.

Pol Col Mongkhon, however, said the fact that the military is still withholding the footage will not affect the investigation.

Sumitchai Hattasarn, a lawyer for Chaiyapoom’s family, said the CCTV footage is key evidence in the case, adding that he is still waiting for the autopsy report.

The latest statement from the police contradicts that of 3rd Region Army chief Lt Gen Vijak Siribansop made on 27 March.

Lt Gen Vijak said then that the military had already sent the CCTV footage to the police and that the military had no authority to reveal evidence to the public without court permission.

According to an army report, on 17 March Chaiyapoom tried to escape custody after soldiers arrested him and Pongsanai Saengtala, 19, the driver of a car in which authorities allegedly found 2,800 methamphetamine pills.

After the young activist hid in a nearby bush and attempted to throw a grenade at the soldiers who followed him, one of the soldiers shot him dead with a single shot in self-defence, alleged Col Winthai Suvaree, spokesperson of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

But in an interview broadcast on Thai PBS on 21 March 2017, an anonymous source said that Chaiyapoom was dragged out of the car and beaten by soldiers before being killed near a checkpoint in Chiang Dao District of Chiang Mai.

Chaiyapoom was a well-known activist from the Young Seedlings Network Camp in Chiang Dao District. He was involved in numerous campaigns to promote the rights of ethnic Lahu and other vulnerable ethnic minorities in northern Thailand to gain citizenship, health care, and access to education. He also spoke out against abuses by the Thai security forces against his community during anti-drug operations.

A police officer inspecting the body of Chaiyapoom (Photo from TNN News)