Following the recent disappearance of Thai human rights activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Cambodia, MEPs Heidi Hautala* (The Greens/EFA, FI), Maria Arena** (S&D, BE) and Daniel Caspary*** (EPP, DE) issued the following statement on Friday:
“We are very concerned about the safety of Thai political activist and human rights advocate Wanchalearm Satsaksit who recently disappeared in Phnom Penh. Therefore, we call on the Cambodian and Thai authorities to immediately investigate his abduction. We recall that the abduction constitutes a grave violation of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. National authorities must ensure that such crimes are effectively investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice. We are furthermore concerned about reports of the exchange of political dissidents by authorities in the ASEAN region. It is imperative under international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement. Thus, we urge all relevant authorities to ensure that the rights of those individuals seeking shelter in their countries are respected and that their safety is guaranteed. The freedom of expression is an essential part of these rights. It entails the right to express peacefully dissenting voices.”
According to information gathered by Human Rights Watch, Mr Satsaksit was kidnapped on 4 June by a group of armed men in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Mr. Satsaksit, an activist affiliated with the pro-democracy United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, known as the “Red Shirt” movement, fled to Cambodia after the May 2014 military coup in Thailand. Having criticised the Thai Government and the Prime Minister, the Thai authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 2018.
On 3 June, one day before his disappearance, he posted a video clip on Facebook criticizing the Thai Prime Minister.
The U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances has called on Cambodia to “urgently search” for Mr. Satsaksit. Before his disappearance, at least eight other exiled Thai dissidents had disappeared in Laos and Vietnam.
*Heidi Hautala is Vice-President of the European Parliament, in charge of Human Rights, Democracy and the Sakharov Prize Community.
**Maria Arena is the Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.
***Daniel Caspary is the Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.