'We expect him to communicate': AAPI groups send letter to SF DA Chesa Boudin calling for change

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A letter penned on behalf of Asian American attorneys was sent to San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin Monday, calling for changes in the way the DA's office handles Asian American victim's cases.

Better communication is just one of the calls to action outlined in that letter from the California Asian Pacific American Bar Association, APABA for short.



"Members of the community deserve to know they're being protected if they've been victimized by a crime that the DA is properly communicating with them in providing the proper resources," says executive director of the group, Charles Jung who went on to say "No one is perfect, we don't expect the DA to be perfect but we do expect him to communicate."

The letter is co-signed and supported by eight local and national organization including SF Case, Stand With Asians, the Chinatown Safety Patrol, and Southeast Asian Development Center. It cites the more than 9,000 hate incidents nationwide reported by Stop AAPI Hate from March of 2020 to June of 2021.

"It's not as acutely in people's minds anymore. But it should be." Says Jung.

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APABA was inspired to write the letter based off the handling of the Vicha Ratanapakdee case in particular, where an 84-year old Thai grandfather was shoved to the ground and killed in January of this year.

"On behalf to the Vicha Ratanapakdee family, we ask that the DA to commit to timely communicating with victims of hate and providing language interpretation services and identifying what he and his office are doing to protect the API community and to be transparent in how he's making decisions in charging hate crimes."

ABC7's Dion Lim emailed and called the DA's office for comment and received this response from Sara Yousuf:
Our interim Chief of Victim Services, Kasie Lee, is a former board member of Cal-APABA and is happy to meet with the group and address the concerns raised in the letter. We just received the letter today, and have already reached out to the group and hope to meet with them soon. The DA's Office cares deeply about supporting victims and survivors, including by expanding language access and support for victims in the courts and in our Victim Services Division. Chief Kasie Lee has been fighting to increase language access for the AAPI community in the legal system throughout much of her career and is continuing this fight as she leads the division.

Last week, Boudin took part in a discussion with Contra Costa County's DA to listen to victims of violent crime. In that discussion he addressed the need for better interpretation services.

"My goal before I leave office is to ensure we have enough victim advocates to respond to every single victim of every crime within 48-thousand and tell them what their rights are in a language they can understand."

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This is the first time a group of survivors of violent crimes from across the Bay Area met in person with multiple district attorneys.



However, for Monthanus Ratanapakdee, Vicha Ratanapakdee's daughter, she says her initial requests for a Thai interpreter were denied.

"I request a Thai interpreter by DA office, I was refused I had to push back for it. They said they don't have any," says Monthanus from the Anza Vista neighborhood where her father was killed.

Illustrating the need for better communication to victims, the letter also referenced the quote Boudin gave to the New York Times that Vicha's attacker was having "some sort of temper tantrum." It's a quote Boudin later said was taken out of context, but one Vicha's family learned of via Twitter.

"I remember my body felt numb," Monthanus said.

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Jung echoed the sentiment, "The family and others like them should not be hearing about developments in the case through the news."

While Monthanus now has access to an interpreter for her family- she says she is the one who must request it first.

A career prosecutor Dion Lim spoke with weighed in, and says the DA's office is expected to provide interpretation services on behalf of the victim.

Monthanus speaks on behalf of not only her family but for all victims whose lives are forever changed by crime and AAPI hate. The suspect in her father's case, Antoine Watson, will make his next court appearance November 10th.

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