BANGKOK — The son of one of three missing republicans said Monday that police have concluded that a mutilated body found in the Mekong River was his father.
The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was contacted Monday by the Institute of Forensic Science after preliminary DNA results identified him as the son of “Phoo Chana,” the assumed name of one of three exiled anti-monarchists who went missing last month in Laos.
A representative of the institute said Monday they, by policy, could not comment or confirm the news.
Like other exiled monarchy critics, the 57-year-old had lived there in exile since the 2014 coup.
He was an aide of well-known monarchy opponent Surachai Danwattananusorn. After Surachai, Phoo Chana and a third man who went by the name “Kasalong” were reported missing, at least two bodies washed ashore on the Thai side of the Mekong River border in Nakhon Phanom province just before New Year’s.
The man identifying himself as Phoo Chana’s son said by phone Monday that he asked police why they needed to interview him. He said they told him that DNA samples taken from one of the bodies suggested he was a relation.
“The [formal DNA] report is not out yet, but basically that’s what I was told,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for security purposes.
The real identities of Phoo Chana and Kasalong are unknown.
The wife of Surachai, Pranee Dawattanusorn, said by phone Monday that the other body found looked too young to be her husband. She added that no one from the family had submitted DNA samples. Police are investigating whether the other body is that of Kasalong.
Pranee said she wants to file a missing persons report to police in Laos but could not afford the trip and is concerned about her security. She believes her husband was either killed and buried somewhere or may still be alive.
“Maybe he is still just being detained. Surachai doesn’t deserve to be murdered with cruelty. He is relatively well-known. Some said he has been saved and is safe,” said Pranee, who lost contact with Surachai on Dec 10.
The three are the latest opponents of the Thai monarchy, some of whom have called for the kingdom to become a republic, to disappear and be presumed dead.
Ko Tee, a radio host and Redshirt firebrand, was reportedly abducted by 10 Thai-speaking men in black in July 2017. A year earlier, a lesser-known dissident, Ittipon Sukpaen, aka DJ Sunho, disappeared and was never seen again.
Fear of being targeted has spread through the dissident community. A young anti-monarchist in Laos who also fled Thailand after the coup said by phone Sunday that he has to move locations every four days for fear of being forcibly disappeared. He has also complained of having no success finding a nation to grant him political asylum.
There were notes of defiance, as well. Political activist Waaddao Chumaporn wrote online Monday afternoon to pray for the souls of the missing three, adding: “We shall not forget how each life has suffered in order to ignite continued work for justice.”
Kyoto-based exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun wrote online to urge exiles to flee “urgently” from the neighboring countries to a third country in light of the reported DNA results.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that the bodies were recovered in Nong Khai province. In fact, they were discovered in Nakhon Phanom province.