Chiang Mai Festival Honors ‘Disappeared’ Billy

This year’s Friend’s Without Borders Foundation art and cultural festival held at Chiang Mai University Art Centre commemorates the work of Karen human rights activist, Pawlachee Rakchongcharoen, also known as Billy.

The Festival runs from 8 to 12 of May. The 2015 festival sub-title, Rak Chongcharoen (Salute to Love), honors the human rights and environmentalism work of Billy.

Billy was the author of a short film called The Way of Lives, about the aspirations of the Karen people from Bangkloi village.

The Karen community was shocked when Billy was forcibly ‘disappeared’ on the afternoon of April 17, 2014. Billy was renowned for his activism and his struggle for justice and human rights and his battles to preserve the forests of Kaeng Kracharn.

At the time of his disappearance, Billy had been involved in a lawsuit against Thai park officials over the destruction of the homes of ethnic Karen living in the Kaengkracharn National Park in Petchaburi province.

The 2015 festival over the five days will showcase films on a wide range of topics. The art and cultural festival also includes seminars, music performances and exhibitions.

Saw Dah Poe, a young Karen film maker whose short film will be screened at the festival spoke about Billy.

“I am proud to be able to showcase my works at the event of honoring our brother, Billy. He is my role model. He was not afraid of anything while working for his people. He knew that his works were dangerous, but he didn’t give up. My sympathy goes to his surviving family members and his community.”

Saw Dah Poe said that he wants other people to learn about Karen through his films.

“There are many stories to tell about the lives of our Karen people. Many small but important stories are untold. I want to tell them through my short films for people to learn more about the lives of our Karen people.”

Saw Dah Poe has two films; “Misplace Flower” and “Last Summer”, screening at the festival. Saw Dah Poe’s “Misplaced Flower” won the Special White Elephant Award at the Thai Short Film Festival in 2014.

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