Justice for Wanchalearm

Justice for Wanchalearm

Ban Chan Song La residence in Bangkok has become a new political destination in Thai politics following convicted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's release on parole last Sunday.

One of the VIP guests was Cambodian ex-prime minister Hun Sen -- who visited him on Wednesday. The visit shows more than a close friendship. It is proof of the now stronger ties between Thailand and Cambodia.

On that day, groups of people, several of them red-shirt followers, gathered near Thaksin's Chan Song La residence. Yet one of the visitors stood out and grabbed media headlines. That visitor was Sitanan Satsaksit, the elder sister of the missing activist, Wanchalearm -- who was abducted in Phnom Penh on June 4, 2020. Ms Sitanan was there to submit a petition asking for justice for her brother.

Wanchalearm, like a few political activists, took refuge in Cambodia following the 2014 coup by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and the junta. The activist, then 38, was an IT expert and was charged with computer crimes. He ran away to Cambodia after he refused to report to the junta.

Ms Sitanan has said her brother constantly contacted the family from Cambodia until his sudden abduction. The only evidence that exists is video clips from CCTV that show him being whisked by a few men into a waiting car outside his apartment in Phnom Penh.

It should be noted that several activists who took shelter in neighbouring countries, ie Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, were killed and made to disappear or were deported back to Thailand between 2018 and 2020.

There were no investigations conducted for those killed and missing. Another activist who disappeared was Siam Theerawut, who went missing in Vietnam.

Ms Sitanan travelled to Phnom Penh a few times after her brother disappeared -- but there has been no progress in the investigation led by Cambodian police.

Thus, she wanted to send a petition to Hun Sen with the hopes of getting the case revived.

But, of course, Ms Sitanan was let down. Not just because she was obstructed from approaching the Cambodian strongman but also because, on the night before the Cambodian ex-PM's visit, she was intimidated by some Pheu Thai members who disagreed with her plan.

In the end, she had to hand her note to Thai police and had no idea if it would be forwarded to the Cambodian side.

Ms Sitanan made no attempts to hide her disappointment with the Pheu Thai-led government in taking no action regarding her brother's disappearance.

"It turns out that the Prayut regime was not as bad as Pheu Thai," Ms Sitanan was quoted as saying.

For several pro-democracy people, the junta was the main suspect in Wanchalerm's disappearance. The regime denied the allegations.

Protocol-wise, police may have had to block Ms Sitanan from approaching Hun Sen that very day, but intimidation? The Pheu Thai Party needs to look into the matter at once and clear the air.

Given the boost in bilateral relations, Pheu Thai must take this opportunity to ask the Cambodian government to revive the case and find out what really happened to the missing activist four years ago, who did it, and to ensure that justice is brought to Wanchalearm and the bereaved family.

In fact, instead of staying idle, the Pheu Thai government has a moral obligation to help the Satsaksit family and other activists who died or fell victim to forced disappearances due to their anti-dictatorship stance.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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