Civil society organizations calls for a prompt, independent investigation into the alleged extrajudicial killing of an indigenous Lahu man, Mr. Jajue Ja–or.
On 23 July 2019, police officers from Wiang Haeng Police Station launched a drug search operation in Baan Huay Krai Mai in Wiang Haeng District of Chiang Mai Province. Reportedly, the police officers asked two “suspicious men” to stop at their checkpoint for a search. However, one of the men was allegedly carrying a rifle and attempted to open fire on the officers, and an exchange of gunfire ensued. A gunshot eventually killed one of the suspected men named Jajue Ja-or, who is an indigenous Lahu. According to the information received, Jajue’s mother tried to enter the crime scene and approach her son’s body, but she was pushed and kicked by the police officers, triggering widespread discontentment among Baan Huay Krai Mai community members. On 24 July 2019, many community members staged a public assembly and published a statement raising concerns regarding the extrajudicial killing of Jajue. The statement claims that Jajue was neither selling nor carrying narcotics as he was accused of. Furthermore, there were eyewitnesses who saw that Jajue did not have a rifle during the arrest and clash, but the firearm was allegedly placed on the crime scene after he had been killed.
Extrajudicial killing, defined as arbitrary deprivation of life by government officials including executions without due process, constitutes a serious violation of human rights. Every individual has the right to life and right to due process guaranteed under Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights to which Thailand is a State party. Furthermore, these rights are protected under Sections 28 and 29 of the 2017 Constitution of Thailand which stipulates that a suspect or defendant in a criminal case shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Law enforcement officials must not treat the suspect as a convict until the passing of a final judgement convicting him or her. Therefore, any suspect or defendant, in any cases, must not be subjected to extrajudicial killing and shall be entitled to the right to defense and fair trial.
In the context of law enforcement, intentional lethal use of force or arms by the officials must meet the requirements of necessity and, proportionality. If not, such use of force may constitute extrajudicial killing which the government has the responsibility to examine, take legal and disciplinary actions on the perpetrators, and provide appropriate compensation for the victim’s family. Extrajudicial killings can undermine the legal system and rule of law, making citizens distrust state authorities. Therefore, when an extrajudicial killing occurs, the government must follow its responsibility to punish the perpetrator both via disciplinary and legal means and provide adequate compensation for the victim’s family. In the case of Jajue’s death, the Court must conduct a prompt, independent investigation to determine facts about the death. Importantly, if there is enough ground to establish that Jajue has been killed by a government official, the Court must indicate who killed him in the finding.
Civil society organizations co-signing this statement would also like to point out that Jajue Ja-or is not the first indigenous person who falls victim to extrajudicial killing. Since the War on Drugs in 2003, indigenous people in Thailand have been stereotyped negatively as ‘uncivilized’ drug traders who pose threats to national security. Such racial biases have strong influence on law enforcement policies, thereby oftentimes subjecting indigenous people to arbitrary use of violence by state officials be it in the forms of extrajudicial killings, torture, or enforced disappearance. For instance, in 2003, six indigenous Mien people were killed in Huay Chompu Sub-district, Mueng District of Chiang Rai Province. In 2017, an indigenous Lahu youth activist Chaiyaphum Pasae and an indigenous Lisu man Abe Saemu also became victims of extrajudicial killings at police checkpoints in Chiang Mai Province. Every case shares the same pattern; the police officers accused the victims of being involved in narcotic trades and arbitrarily decided to kill them on the spot instead of bringing them to a proper criminal procedure. Their recourse to extrajudicial killing is decidedly unnecessary, disproportionate, and potentially based on racial biases. What happened to Jajue, therefore, is part of systematic human rights violations that disproportionately affect indigenous populations.If this kind of abuse of force continues to happen, it may spark distrust in the government among indigenous people and eventually lead to ethnic conflicts in the country.
Accordingly, civil society organizations co-signing this statement have the following request to the government:
- Set up an independent fact-finding committee that allows the involvement of the affected community and civil society groups to investigate on the death of Jajue Ja-or. If it can be established that Jajue was subjected to extrajudicial killing, the responsible officials must be held accountable, prosecuted in fair criminal trials and other disciplinary mechanisms. The government must also offer compensation and remedies to the injured party’s family to ensure their physical and mental rehabilitation.
- Eyewitnesses who directly saw the search, arrest, and killing of Jajue must be protected from possible harassments by the perpetrator to ensure that they are free from fear, pressure, or coercion and can provide a truthful testimony as evidence for the fact-finding committee.
- Transfer the authorities accused of arbitrarily killing Jajue out of the area during the period of investigation and trial to ensure that they will not tamper with the evidence.
- The death investigation must strictly adhere to the principles laid out in the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016). In other words, it must be carried out in a prompt, effective, independent, and transparent manner. All pieces of evidence must be taken into consideration to determine who killed Mr. Jajue and establish other relevant facts concerning his death.
- Relevant government agencies shall organize trainings on human rights with a focus on the right to due process and freedom of racial discrimination. Such trainings should be mandatory for community police officers and security personnel, especially border patrol officers and other groups directly working with ethnic minorities and indigenous people.
With respect to human rights and dignity
Released on 27 July 2019
- Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
- Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
- Union of Civil Liberty (UCL)
- Chiang Mai Province Network of Ethnic Groups
- Federation for the Assistance of Mon People in the Borderland
- Indigenous Karen Network For Culture and Environment, Tra Now Sri Division.
- Legal Center For Community Rights
- Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights
- Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
- ENLaw Foundation
- Indigenous Network of Thailand