Govt involvement urged in activist 'abduction' case

Govt involvement urged in activist 'abduction' case

Members of the media take photo of a picture of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 37, a political activist who was abducted by unknown gunmen in front of his Phnom Penh apartment on Thursday. (Reuters photo)
Members of the media take photo of a picture of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 37, a political activist who was abducted by unknown gunmen in front of his Phnom Penh apartment on Thursday. (Reuters photo)

Thai authorities will be seen in bad light if they do not actively investigate the case of government critic Wanchalearm Satsaksit who disappeared from Phnom Penh on Thursday, warned human rights defender Angkhana Neelapaijit.

"The government would be cast in a bad light -- as an accessory [to the disapperance] -- if it is not active in solving this case," Ms Angkhana said. "Despite Mr Wanchalearm being critical against the government, he is a Thai citizen."

Thai authorities must work with the Cambodian government to solve this case, the former human rights commissioner added.

Ms Angkhana believes the Cambodian government would take an active role in solving Mr Wanchalearm's disappearance as the country ratified the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2013.

According to media reports, Mr Wanchalearm was living in exile in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

Prachathai reported that Mr Wanchalearm was taken near his apartment while buying food on Thursday. He was dragged into a black car during the the afternoon.

Cambodian authorities have yet to acknowledge Mr Wanchalearm's disappearance, ruling out an investigation into the incident.

Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Police (RTP), yesterday said the RTP has not received any information about Mr Wanchalearm.

"This did not take place on Thai soil," Col Kissana said. "Thai authorities do not have the authority to meddle."

Nantiwat Samart, former deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), urged the public not to jump to conclusions.

"Isn't it too early to conclude that this activist was abducted and has already been killed?" Mr Nantiwat said.

"An abduction is a high-risk operation and needs a superpower nation to do it," he said. "Thailand is not a superpower."

Mr Nantiwat, writing on Facebook, expressed scepticism about allegations the activist was a victim of forced disappearance.

"His [charge] is for violating the Computer-Related Crime Act (CRCA), which carries a light penalty," the former intelligence director said.

"Is he so important that he had to be abducted?"

A native of Ubon Ratchathani, Mr Wanchalearm defied a summons by the National Council for Peace and Order. As a result, Mr Wanchalearm was told to show up at a military court.

In June 2018, an arrest warrant by police was issued related to the CRCA violation for operating a Facebook page critical of the government.


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