Sister of Abducted Activist to Visit Cambodia for Investigation

Sitanun Satsaksit, left, speaks about her brother Wanchalearm Satsaksit during an event organized by Amnesty International on Oct. 5, 2020.

BANGKOK — The elder sister of exiled activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who went missing in Phnom Penh in June, said she will try to visit Cambodia in person and continue an investigation into his fate, since she’s given up any hope on government actions.

Sitanun Satsaksit said she decided not to rely on either Thai or Cambodian government because both of them have not given her any satisfactory answer, four months since Wanchalearm was reportedly taken away in a van in front of his residence on June 4. 

Read: UNHCR Says No Comment on Activist’s Abduction

Sitanun said in a phone interview that the Cambodian authorities told her in August that Saksit was not found in the accommodation list of the apartment.

“They said there was no Wanchalearm there on that day. That the license plate of the van which abducted him wasn’t real,” Sitanun said Monday. “They are now trying to clean up any traces. The person ordering it is not ordinary,” 

Security officials also tried to find evidence through security cameras where the incident reportedly took place, to no avail, a letter issued by the Cambodian Ministry of Interior Affairs said. 

Sitanun believes the Thai authorities were behind the abduction, but the government has denied any involvement.

Wanchalearm left Thailand shortly after Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power in 2014. He was an outspoken critic of the ruling junta, and he sometimes criticized the monarchy on his Facebook. 

Sitanun said she will soon need to raise funds to continue the search for her missing brother, adding that the search for Wanchalearm already cost her 500,00 baht in legal fees and other expenses.

“I may not be able to do anything, legally speaking, but the society must know what’s happening,” she said.

Her attempts to travel to Cambodia are also complicated by border restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Sitanun still clings to hopes that her brother might still be alive.

“There’s a little chance,” she said. “Some said he might be still detained somewhere due to coronavirus shutdown. I am undecided. He might still be alive somewhere.”

Amnesty International urged the Cambodian government to carry out a “prompt, effective, thorough and transparent investigation” into Wanchealearm’s fate. The organization also called both Thai and Cambodian authorities to facilitate Sitanun’s travel to the country. 

“Amnesty International has launched the Urgent Action and invited our supporters around the world to write to Prime Minister Hun Sen urging Cambodia to promptly investigate the alleged disappearance of Wanchalearm,” a media statement said. “And to keep his family informed as to his whereabouts and to bring to justice the perpetrators who should be tried in a civilian court with their right to fair trial upheld.”

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