Cambodia won't probe activist 'abduction'

Cambodia won't probe activist 'abduction'

Wanchalearm: Dragged into a car by armed men in Phnom Penh
Wanchalearm: Dragged into a car by armed men in Phnom Penh

Cambodian police have ruled out a probe into the disappearance of a self-exiled Thai activist after he was allegedly abducted in broad daylight outside his Phnom Penh apartment.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a 37-year-old critic of the Thai government, was dragged into a black car on Thursday afternoon by a group of armed men while he was buying food near his apartment, according to Prachatai website.

Citing several witnesses and CCTV from security cameras, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says he was on the phone with a colleague when he was taken by "a group of armed men".

But yesterday, Cambodian police said they knew nothing of the disappearance.

"We don't know about it, so what should we investigate?" Chhay Kim Khoeun, the spokesman of the Cambodian National Police said.

Mr Wanchalearm is wanted in Thailand for allegedly breaching the Computer Crimes Act by running an acerbic anti-government Facebook page. He last posted on his personal Facebook account a few hours before his disappearance, writing cryptically "Compromise Mode".

At least eight Thai activists who fled after the last coup to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have reportedly disappeared, HRW added.

A spokesman for Cambodia's Interior Ministry suggested the HRW report could be "fake news".

"We don't know where HRW got the information," Khieu Sopheak said, adding "There's a lot of fake news out there".

Meanwhile, Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, former president of the Student Union of Thailand, led a rally at the Skywalk in Bangkok's Pathumwan area from 5pm to 6pm yesterday, saying it was to denounce the suspected enforced disappearance of coup critics.

Pathumwan police chief, Col Patikorn Sornchai said the group did not ask for permission to rally. However, officers were deployed to keep order.

A native of Ubon Ratchathani, Mr Wanchalearm was wanted for defying a National Council for Peace and Order summons to report after the 2014 coup, but he failed to show up. As a result, he faced an arrest warrant issued by the military court. Mr Wanchalearm reportedly fled to Laos.

In June 2018, Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant for Mr Wanchalearm based on allegations he violated the Computer-Related Crime Act by operating a Facebook page Ku Tong Dai 100 Lan Jak Thaksin Nae Nae (I will surely get 100 million baht from Thaksin Shinawatra) critical of the Thai government from Phnom Penh.

The Royal Thai Police has made no comment on Mr Wanchalearm's alleged abduction in Cambodia.

Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen insisted Mr Wanchalearm's case is being treated like other cases in which suspects flee overseas, noting that police had initiated a process to seek his extradition upon learning that he fled the country.

Rangsiman Rome, a Move Forward Party list-MP, yesterday urged the government to work with Cambodia to investigate the alleged abduction of Mr Wanchalearm and to ensure his safety.

He said the government should also look into the alleged enforced disappearances of several other activists. He pointed out that at least 10 people were victims of enforced disappearances under the regime's rule.

"I am calling on the government whose job is to protect Thai nationals worldwide to act now and ensure Mr Wanchalearm's safety by working closely with the Cambodian government," he said.


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