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Fears of abduction for Thai activist in exile

Wanchalearm Satsaksit
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Wanchalearm’s Facebook profile states he is in exile because he supports democracy. Thai authorities filed outstanding charges against him, most recently in 2018 under the Computer Crime Act, alleging that he had posted anti-government material on a Facebook group called “Gu Tong Dai 100 Lan Jak Thaksin Nae Nae (I will certainly receive 100 million from Thaksin.)” They reportedly requested his extradition from Cambodian authorities at the time.

They also filed charges against him for failing to report to summons issued in 2014 to a wide range of activists and political figures after the military coup in May of that year. 

On 9 June 2020, Cambodian authorities stated to the media that they would initiate an investigation into his disappearance, having earlier told media that they did not know about his case and would not be investigating his alleged abduction.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit is among dozens of political activists from Thailand who have sought asylum in neighbouring countries following political unrest in the country in the last decade. Many left the country after military authorities took power in a coup in May 2014 and issued summons for their political opponents and activists to report to them for interrogation and arbitrary detention. Thai authorities have also repeatedly requested neighbouring governments to return many of these individuals from Thailand to face criminal charges – often for their exercise of the right to freedom of expression online. 

There are strong concerns for the safety of Thai exiles in neighbouring countries whose extradition has been sought by the Thai authorities. In recent years, at least eight Thai activists and members of the political opposition have disappeared or been killed in neighbouring countries — including people who made broadcasts in exile opposing the government or monarchy. The eight activists are individuals whose extradition the Thai authorities had repeatedly requested, including on the basis that their broadcasts into Thailand from Laos were a threat to national security. 

Neighbouring states – including the Lao and Vietnamese governments – have not exercised due diligence in investigating this pattern of abductions of Thai nationals whose extradition to face charges of lèse majesté had been sought by the Thai authorities. Their whereabouts remain unknown– with the exception of two individuals, whose corpses were found stuffed with concrete in the Mekong river in December 2018. Despite suspicions of official involvement, none of the perpetrators has been identified, and no independent, thorough or effective investigation is known to have taken place.

Amnesty international is also concerned of the possibility that neighbouring authorities – including Cambodia - have colluded with Thailand in recent years in the forcible return of individuals wanted in their respective countries, who would face human rights violations if returned. This includes Cambodians who have fled persecution for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, who have also been forcibly returned from Thailand to Cambodia. 


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