As Thai Police Investigation into Lao Activist’s Disappearance Stalls, Rights Leaders Demand Answers

Lao democracy advocate Od Sayavong reads a statement at a protest in Bangkok, Thailand, June 16, 2019.

Human rights activists voiced concern Monday about the stalled Thai police investigation into the late-August disappearance in Bangkok of prominent Lao democracy advocate Od Sayavong.

Od, 34, who had been recognized as a refugee by the U.N. refugee agency and openly criticized his country’s government online and in public protests, was last seen at his home in Bangkok on Aug. 26.

A week later a colleague reported his disappearance to the Thai police. They say they are still investigating.

“We’re still working on this case, following all the [necessary] steps of the investigation and we’re cooperating with the U.N.,” Col. Thirayut Maipaeng, chief of the Bungkum Police Station in Bangkok, told RFA’s Lao Service last week.

“In fact, the other day, the U.N. came to the station to inquire about the case,” he added.

The chief added that after interrogating Od’s friends and looking at security camera footage, they are no closer to cracking the case. They didn’t see where or how he disappeared and none of his friends said they saw him since he was last reported being seen.

The officer reiterated and insisted that the Thai authorities are taking the case seriously, but the investigation has stalled as they search for more evidence.

Rights experts demand answers

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch called for “more pressure on the Thai government.”

“The UNHCR, Laos and other organizations are expecting a full and quick investigation from the Thai side. So far, it has been very quiet. Everybody is asking why there has been no information about the case,” HRW’s deputy Asia director said.

Sunai Pasuk, a senior consultant for a rights organization in Thailand, told RFA on Monday that the Thai government needs to do better.

“At this moment, we’re still urging the Thai authorities, especially the police, to continue the investigation to find out what happened to Od. The Thai government should show a clearer commitment to protecting asylum seekers,” he said.

Mr. Pasuk explained that Od’s disappearance has created fear and concern for Lao pro-democracy activists who apply for political asylum in Thailand or criticize the Lao government from there.

Meanwhile a UNHCR representative told RFA, “We don’t know how [Od] disappeared. We only processed his application for political asylum.”

An RFA Lao Service reporter recently contacted one of Od’s friends via Facebook messenger. Od’s friend said he has not heard anything about him since his disappearance.

Reported and Translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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