Relatives of disappeared exiles say investigation by Thai authorities is slow

The mother and sister of Siam Theerawut, who disappeared after fleeing to Vietnam, and the sister of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was reportedly abducted while living in Phnom Penh, have been told by the authorities that the status of investigations is a ‘work in progress’.

Sitanun Satsaksit submitting a letter to the DSI Director-General, Pol Lt Col Korrawat Panprapakorn.

On 2 June, the relatives, along with their legal assistance team from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), went to the Department of Special Investigation to ask for updates.

DSI Director-General Pol Lt Col Korrawat Panprapakorn responded that the DSI had told its working group to expedite their inquiries. If the results show that the cases took place in Cambodia, the Attorney General will be tasked with the investigation in line with the Thai Criminal Code.

Korrawat refused to speak about Wanchalearm’s passport and bank account under the alias Sok Heng.

“We are processing the details about this. Some issues cannot be talked about in public. We are gathering information and facts for evidence.

Saranya Theerawut, 34, Siam’s sister, said there was no news and the investigation was proceeding slowly.

“They [the DSI] just asked us for information. There hasn’t been much investigation at all. They just asked for basic information from us about when the disappearance took place. There has been no search at all.

“We have hope that one day we will meet, that we will meet Siam once again, even though there is not that much hope,” said Saranya.

Surapong Kongchantuek, CrCF President, said Thai authorities have the mandate to look after Thai nationals wherever they are. However, there are actually cases of Thais in exile who had been disappeared in an organized manner. The international community sees them as enforced disappearances, which is a serious issue.

Surapong urged parliament to quickly consider the Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Bill. As of now, there are 4 drafts waiting for parliamentary discussion submitted by the Palang Pracharath and Move Forward parties, the Democrat Party, the Prachachart Party, and the government led by the Ministry of Justice. He also demanded that the law be passed with the intention of protecting people.

In the afternoon, Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm’s sister, went to the Office of the Attorney General to submit another letter asking for an update.

Charnchai Chalanonniwat, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Criminal Litigation, said that the Office needed to wait for the Cambodian court to see if the incident had really taken place there or not.

“As far we know, the Cambodian court is holding an inquiry. We are waiting here. If it turns out that the results of the inquiry show that there was a disappearance, … the process then can move forward,” said Charnchai.

Wanchalerm is an activist and political campaigner who had lived in self-exile in Cambodia since 2014. He was reportedly abducted outside the Mekong Garden Condominium by a group of armed men on 4 June 2020. His fate and whereabouts are still unknown.

Siam, an activist, was reportedly arrested along with Chucheep Cheewasut and Kritsana Tupthai and deported from Vietnam on 8 May 2019. Their whereabouts are also unknown as of June 2021.

 
Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2021/06/93334

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