Sister of Thai Activist Kidnapped in Cambodia Urges Action by Phnom Penh Court

Special to BenarNews
Sister of Thai Activist Kidnapped in Cambodia Urges Action by Phnom Penh Court Sitanan Satsaksit, sister of abducted Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, speaks to reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Dec. 8, 2020.

The sister of a Thai activist abducted in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh in June after posting a video attacking Thailand's government online has appealed for help in Cambodian courts after months of failure by authorities to pursue the case.

Sitanan Satsaksit, sister of kidnapped activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, appeared before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to provide almost 200 pages of documents showing her brother had lived in Phnom Penh and describing his abduction, she later told reporters outside the court.

She also gave the court videos, phone and bank records, and a passport documenting her brother’s presence in Cambodia after he escaped from Thailand following a military coup that overthrew the country’s elected government in 2014.

“I think I have provided enough documents to the court now,” Sitanan told reporters, adding that she had been in constant contact with her brother in Cambodia by telephone before he went missing. “Now it is up to the Cambodian authorities to decide whether they will take action to investigate this case or not.”

Wanchalearm Satsaksit was abducted on June 4 in front of his apartment complex in Phnom Penh, a day after he posted a video on Facebook criticizing the Thai government. He had fled Thailand following the 2014 coup led by Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who was then Army chief and is now Thailand’s prime minister.

A friend later said that surveillance footage showed Wanchalearm being driven away in a black SUV, according to a report in the Thai news portal Prachatai. A security guard had attempted to help Wanchalearm, but his kidnappers were armed, Prachatai said.

Following the 2014 military coup that overthrew the Thai government of Yingluck Shinawatra, at least 104 people have fled Thailand over fears of prosecution and at least nine anti-government activists have gone missing, with two later found dead in the Mekong River in December 2018.

‘This is just a start’

Speaking to reporters after Sitanan’s appearance in court, attorney Sam Chamroeun said a court judge told him the court’s investigation will now move forward if they receive enough evidence to proceed, and said his client will provide more evidence and submit to questioning if required.

“We can’t predict how anything will go right now. This is just a start,” Sam Chamroeun said, adding, “We’ll see how long this takes. Right now this is all just at the investigation stage.”

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator with the Cambodian rights group Licadho, said that the evidence already given to the court should now allow the court and Cambodian authorities to pursue an investigation.

“This is an unusual case, and it is important that the authorities and the court work to investigate it in order to seek the truth and provide justice [for the victim],” he said.

Cambodian authorities must now “thoroughly, independently and impartially investigate” Wanchalearm’s disappearance, the rights group Amnesty International said in a statement on Monday, noting that little progress has been made since June to determine who was behind the activist’s disappearance.

“The Cambodian authorities’ failure to make adequate progress in the investigation calls into question their compliance with the [U.N.’s] Convention on Enforced Disappearances, to which Cambodia is a state party,” Amnesty International said.

“I agree with Amnesty International,” Wanchalearm’s sister Sitanan said in a text message to BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.  “I think that Amnesty International understands the circumstances [of this situation] very clearly.”


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