BANGKOK — Thailand’s state-sanctioned human rights agency on Monday denies turning a blind eye to the spate of abduction targeting Thai dissidents living overseas.
In a phone interview today, What Tingsamitr, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said his organization has acknowledged the latest case of disappearance, that of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit. However, What said no formal investigation opens yet because no one has filed a complaint with them.
“We are keeping our eyes on the issue,” What said. “We can’t take action right away since it happened outside the country. We admit that we don’t have power beyond our boundary, but we can coordinate with the foreign ministry and forward the case to Cambodian authorities.”
The case is certainly a “grave violation” of human rights if it has been proven to be an enforced disappearance, he added.
Rejecting accusations from critics that the state-sponsored agency is reticent on the case, What said his commission did not issue comment earlier because it has to follow the protocols as mandated by the law.
“We can’t just say things immediately like what many people or NGOs are doing,” What said. “First, we have to verify the facts before commenting because we are a government agency. Second, we can’t cross the line into another country because it’s their sovereignty.”
According to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, at least eight Thai dissidents have become victims of abduction since the military seized power in 2014. No one claimed responsibility for the crimes so far.
What said the commission is well aware of the alleged kidnappings and has already issued reports on some of the abductees, such as anti-monarchists Surachai Danwattanusorn and Kraidej Luelert, also known by his alias “Comrade Kasalong.”
Both men fled to Laos to avoid royal defamation charges and are now presumed dead.
“We have already published reports on many abductees in the past,” What said. “But it’s up to the government and legislators to take the issue seriously. Thailand has signed the UN convention against enforced disappearance since 2012, but it never became a law.”
The commission chairman also said it’s work is being protected under the constitution and he is not afraid of “any outside interference.”
“We are not greng jai of the government,” What said. “We take human rights issues in a straightforward manner.”
Government officials in Thailand and Cambodia have insisted they had no knowledge of Wanchalearm’s alleged abduction.
Activists staged a protest outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok on Monday afternoon demanding action from the Cambodian authorities on the matter.
They submitted a petition to the mission’s secretary and placed posters calling for justice on the embassy’s wall.