NAKHON PHANOM — Photos emerged Tuesday to support accounts that a third body was found in the Mekong River that has since gone missing.
Coming after two mutilated bodies recovered from the river were identified as aides of a missing prominent anti-monarchist, the photos show what appear to be a third body that can no longer be accounted for.
Surachai Danwattanusorn, a strident critic of the monarchy, went missing early last month along with two compatriots known by the names Kasalong and Phoo Chana. All three had been living together as fugitives in exile in Laos since the 2014 coup.
The photos show the bodies as they were reportedly found last month, wrapped head to toe in rice sacks and fishnets and tied with rope.
The other two were retrieved and identified by DNA testing by the Forensic Science Institute as that of Phoo Chana and Kasalong. They were recovered Dec. 26 and 29, respectively. Both bodies were found handcuffed, disemboweled and stuffed with concrete.
The third body was found Dec. 27, according to Chana Wasurukka, a local reporter for Khaosod newspaper. He said the village headman reported to police that afternoon that he had retrieved a floating body and secured it to the bank of the river with a sturdy, two-inch rope. He said the photos of the body were taken by local residents.
“The police said they were busy, but then a navy patrol showed up and took photos. Villagers took photos too,” Chana said by phone from Nakhon Phanom on Tuesday afternoon. By the time police arrive later that afternoon, the body was gone. Chana said the headman was instructed by security forces not to talk about what happened.
Repeated calls to the local police in Nakhon Phanom and its commander were not answered Tuesday afternoon.
That’s led to speculation the found-and-lost body was that of Surachai, whose wife says she last heard from him on Dec. 10. It’s possible it could have become untied from the shore to re-emerge as the body recovered 50 kilometers downriver two days later in Nakhon Phanom city.
That body’s legs were bent at the knee at a 90-degree angle, which a forensic examiner said, barring significant decay, is unlikely to have occurred naturally due to postmortem rigor mortis.
Warning: Below are images of the bodies as found.