Rights group urges Thailand, ASEAN to probe disappearance of Wanchalearm

Amnesty International

Amnesty International (AI) called on the Thai authorities and ASEAN on Friday to investigate the disappearance of political activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who went missing last year in Cambodia, while the Cambodian authorities have failed in their legal obligation to probe the case properly.

AI submitted an open letter to Thailand’s Attorney-General to highlight the failures in the Cambodian investigation and to call for the Attorney-General to launch an immediate formal investigation, with the Department of Special Investigation, into the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm.

AI also reiterated its calls for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to take a more active role in facilitating cooperation among ASEAN member countries, to afford the greatest measure of mutual assistance for victims of enforced disappearance, as well as in searching for, locating and releasing forcibly disappeared persons in Southeast Asia.

Friday June 4th marks one year since Wanchalearm was last seen in Phnom Penh, where he was living in self-exile, with little or no progress in the investigation to establish his fate or whereabouts.

A criminal investigation into the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm has formally been underway in Cambodia since September 2020, according to AI. His sister, Sitanun Satsaksit, gave evidence to a court in Phnom Penh in December 2020, but the authorities have not reported any new investigatory actions undertaken in relation to the case.

Ms. Sitanun, reported the abduction of Wanchalearm, 37, on June 4th, 2020. CCTV footage, published in the media, following the abduction, shows a dark blue Toyota Highlander leaving the scene, where Wanchalearm Satsaksit was last seen, as well as two men who appear to have witnessed the abduction.

Thai authorities previously filed criminal charges against Wanchalearm, most recently in 2018, under the Computer Crimes Act, alleging that he had posted anti-government material on a satirical Facebook page. The authorities reportedly requested Wanchalearm’s extradition from Cambodia at the time, though the Cambodian authorities have not publicly acknowledged receiving any such request.


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