No progress in missing dissident case

It has been a month since Siam Theerawut went missing along with two other refugees, Chucheep “Uncle Sanam Luang” Chiwasut and Kritsana Tupthai, after it was reported that they had been arrested in Vietnam and extradited to Thailand on 8 May. So far, neither the Thai nor Vietnamese authorities have disclosed information about the three men’s fate.

Kanya Theerawut (center) with demonstrators in front of the Embassy of Vietnam, after she filed a letter asking the Vietnamese authorities to disclose information about her son's disappearance.

Since her son’s disappearance, Kanya Theerawut has been relentlessly searching for information on his fate. Within the first two weeks after the report of the three refugees’ alleged arrest and extradition, Kanya filed letters with the Crime Suppression Division and the Vietnamese Embassy for information. She also filed a request with the National Human Rights Commission to investigate the disappearance.

Her search has so far come up empty. Montana Duangprapa, an attorney from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said that the Vietnamese Embassy has yet to contact them with any information. The National Human Rights Commissioner sent the family a letter saying that they have accepted the case, but have given no information on progress. Meanwhile, the Crime Suppression Division denied that Siam has been arrested or detained in Thailand. Montana said that they will continue to follow up on the procedures of these three organizations.

Kanya told Prachatai that she is stressed because even after a month there has been no progress. She called the police and was told that the case is difficult. Her friends have been supportive, and she has been to see a fortune teller who said that her son is still alive but is in another country, but some people said that she should not keep her hopes up, given previous cases. Some said that her son was disrespectful to the monarchy, but for Kanya, Siam is a good person. He is polite, well-behaved, and nice.

“I miss him. I haven’t seen him for five years, but previously we would talk on Line and we could see each other, but we haven’t talked for five months. I don’t know what to do next either, but I’m not giving up. How can I give up on him? He’s my son. No matter what, I still want to see him. I want to know where he is. If he’s dead, I want the pieces of him that I can still make merit for,” said Kanya.

National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, whose husband was also a victim of enforced disappearance, said that the Commission is considering what they can investigate in Siam’s case, and which relevant agencies to forward the case to. However, she is currently unable to provide information because this case involves many sectors, and no one can say for sure what happened. There is no evidence, only suspicions that, for example, he may be in Vietnam, or that he may have been extradited to Thailand.

Angkhana said that no one has said anything about the case, and that it might be necessary to ask government agencies for information. When Surachai Danwattananusorn disappeared, the Commission contacted the relevant officials and officials in the area. Surachai disappeared and the bodies of his two companions were found, but in Siam’s case, he disappeared along with two other people and none of them have been found dead. There is also no evidence that he was arrested, released, or extradited.

“Cases like this aren’t easy to investigate, but it is the government’s job to find an answer when a Thai person goes missing,” said Angkhana.