Cambodian authorities deny knowledge of Thai activist’s disappearance

The Cambodian authorities have denied any knowledge about the disappearance of Thai activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, claiming that Wanchalearm did not make any further visa renewal request after his visa expired on 31 December 2017, and that no Cambodian agencies have any additional information about his disappearance other than what has appeared in news reports.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm’s sister, received a letter on 15 July informing her of the progress of the request made by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances on 10 June for the Cambodian authorities to take immediate and urgent action regarding Wanchalearm’s disappearance.

The Cambodian authorities responded to the request by stating that they have investigated Wanchalearm’s disappearance and found that he travelled to Cambodia several times between 2014 and 2015. His last entry into Cambodia was on 19 October 2015, but he did not make any further visa renewal request after his visa expired on 31 December 2017. The Cambodian authorities also stated that no relevant Cambodian agencies have any knowledge or lead on Wanchalearm’s disappearance other than what has already been reported by the media and that they are in the process of conducting further investigations.

The petition was submitted in compliance with Article 30 of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), which empowers the Committee to request the state party concerned to provide information regarding a disappeared person, if “a request that a disappeared person should be sought and found” has been “submitted to the Committee, as a matter of urgency, by relatives of the disappeared person or their legal representatives, their counsel or any person authorized by them, as well as by any other person having a legitimate interest.”

Sitanun noted that the letter from the Cambodian government to the Committee contains the same information as the letter that the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to Wanchalearm’s family on 16 June, which was made before the family made a formal complaint, and therefore this response cannot be considered progress in the effort to investigate Wanchalearm’s disappearance.

Sitanun told TLHR that she hopes that the Cambodian government will be using their judicial process in the investigation, as the family filed a complaint with the prosecution unit at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the Cambodian Ministry of Justice on 8 July. They also filed a complaint with the Cambodian Ministry of Interior on 3 July.