Some 100 supporters of a Thai political activist who was snatched from the streets of Cambodia’s capital in broad daylight protested Monday in front of the country’s embassy in Bangkok, demanding that Phnom Penh investigate his case, while Cambodian officials continued to disavow knowledge of his abduction.
The supporters also accused the Thai government of having orchestrated the kidnapping of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 37, who had fled to Cambodia from Thailand, where he was wanted by authorities for criticizing the former Thai junta. Wanchalearm was apparently abducted by gunmen in front of his apartment complex in Phnom Penh on Thursday afternoon as he talked to his sister on a phone.
Both Thailand’s government and police force have denied involvement in his disappearance. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters Monday that he had no information on the case, but said the government would discuss it with Cambodian authorities.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Cambodian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Koy Koung said his ministry was unable to verify news of Wanchalearm’s abduction.
He said that the Foreign Ministry had received a diplomatic note from the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh asking Cambodia to investigate the alleged kidnapping but referred the matter to “relevant authorities.”
“This case depends on the relevant competent authorities, particularly the Ministry of the Interior,” he said. “The police can verify whether the reports are true or not.”
Deputy chief of the National Police and director of the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Department Dy Vichea told RFA on Sunday that he has “no knowledge” of the alleged abduction and referred questions about it to members of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in exile who have accused him of being behind Wanchalearm’s disappearance.
International rights groups have called on Cambodian authorities to urgently investigate the case and for Thai authorities to confirm whether Wanchalearm was arrested at their request.
“This would not be the first time that Thai citizens have vanished after expressing their political opinions,” London-based Amnesty International said in a statement last week.
“Wanchalearm is outspoken on social media—his sudden disappearance in a violent incident is deeply alarming.”
Since a 2014 military coup that toppled the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, at least 104 people have fled Thailand over fears of prosecution, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a local NGO.
At least 98 people were charged with violating the strict royal defamation law known as Lese-Majeste, and 119 others were charged with sedition, according to iLaw, an online legal advocate group. Authorities also have filed charges under the Computer Crimes Act.
In recent years, at least eight Thai activists who fled after the 2014 coup have disappeared from Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, with the bodies of two of them later found floating in the Mekong River.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.