Abducted Thai activist’s family fly to Cambodia for testimony

Sitanun Satsaksit, sister of missing activist-in-exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, is travelling to Cambodia to testify in her brother’s case, says Amnesty International.

A participant in the Pride march on 7 November holding a #SaveWanchalearm poster, which was handed out during the march.

Piyanut Kotsan, Amnesty International Thailand’s Director, said that Sitanun flew to Cambodia on Tuesday (10 November) to testify on Wanchalearm’s abduction on 8 December.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is only one flight from Thailand to Cambodia per month, and she has to travel almost a month before the scheduled date.

“We welcome the fact that the Thai and Cambodian governments facilitated issuing a special visa for Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s sister, and her legal team to travel to Cambodia to testify in response to a summons from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“We urge the authorities in both countries to provide security for Wanchalaerm’s sister and her legal team during their stay in Cambodia. As a family member of a missing person, they deserve to receive protection, to know the truth, and to receive justice.

“We insist on our existing demand that Cambodia expedite the investigation of the disappearance of Wanchalearm effectively, urgently, comprehensively and transparently and restore justice to the family of the missing person immediately after 5 months without any progress in the case.”

Piyanut also stated that it had been 5 months since Wanchalearm disappeared in Cambodia but there has been no report on progress in investigating this case. While his family is still waiting for the truth of what caused the disappearance and who was responsible, they also wish to bring everyone involved in the case to be punished in accordance with the judicial process.

Amnesty International launched a global letter-writing campaign directed at Cambodian PM Hun Sen, calling on Cambodia to expedite the investigation, to inform his family of his whereabouts and to bring all suspects involved in this crime into justice in a civilian court. Moreover, Cambodia must follow the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced disappearance (CED) to which Cambodia is a party, and must not return Wanchalearm to Thailand in line with the obligation that a person must not be returned to their original country if they are at risk of human rights violations. Amnesty International Thailand sent a petition consisting of 10,000 signatures to Satinan, which will be submitted to the Cambodian authorities.

Wanchalearm is an activist and a blogger who fled to Cambodia after he was summoned by the NCPO for  attitude adjustment. CCTV footage revealed that Wanchalearm was abducted on 4th June 2020 in a black car by an armed kidnapper. At that moment, he was on the phone with his friend who heard him saying “Argh, I can’t breathe.”

His disappearance is the most recent abduction case among Thai political exiles. According to a report by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, the 2017 coup d’état caused many people to flee for political reasons and at least 6 cases were reported as potential enforced disappearances including Chucheep Cheewasut (Uncle Sanam Luang), Siam Teerawut, Kritsana Tapthai, Surachai Sae Dan, together with Kasalong [pseudonym] and Phuchana [pseudonym], the two close friends of Surachai Sae Dan whose bodies were found washed up on the shore of the Mekong River.