UNHCR Says No Comment on Activist’s Abduction

Left: Praya Lundberg at a UNHCR event. Right: Wanchalerm Satsaksit

BANGKOK — The Bangkok chapter of the United Nations’ agency on refugee rights on Monday declined to comment on the alleged abduction of a Thai asylum seeker in Cambodia. 

A press officer for the Bangkok office of United Nations High Commission on Refugees, or UNHCR, said the organization cannot give any opinion or information about the disappearance of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit. The agency’s celebrity ambassador also refused to comment, saying the case is “political.”

“I promote peace and non political agendas this is highly political,” Praya “Pu” Lundberg wrote on Instagram. “It’s not my place to and not my fight. If you want me to fight for a broader issue I can like racism.” 

Praya was responding to queries from netizens who demanded to know her opinion on Wanchalaeam’s fate as a goodwill ambassador of the UN agency that supposedly assisted asylum seekers and refugees.


She also wrote she was “not knowledgeable enough about the situation.” Later, Praya posted an apology: “I am aware of the incident and personally, I am sorry for what happened. The situation is highly sensitive and complicated.” 

But netizens criticized Praya for refusal to comment on domestic issues despite her speaking out on anti-racism protests in the United States earlier, which they saw as an act of hypocrisy.

“How contradictory. You are a UNHCR goodwill ambassador and your job is to work directly with refugees,” Facebook user Thanya Jitchote wrote in a comment that was liked more than 1,900 times. “But when something happens in your own country, you suddenly get all sensitive and careful to not touch politics. Enlightenment me, what kind of refugees are non-political?”

Praya was chosen by Thailand’s UNHCR office as its ambassador back in 2017 – a role that many netizens said she failed to fulfill.  

When reached for comment Monday, public relations officer at UNHCR Thailand Duangmon Sujatanond said that she could not comment on whether Pu would be replaced as goodwill ambassador.

“We can’t comment on personal issues for her safety,” Duangmon said when asked about Pu’s social media posts.

When asked if the UNHCR would look into Wanchalearm’s disappearance, Duangmon said the UNHCR cannot comment on any of their cases. 

Wanchalearm, formerly an advocate for HIV patients’ rights, fled Thailand after the military seized power in 2014. For his criticism of the military government and the monarchy, he was wanted on charges of cybercrime and failure to report to the junta as instructed. 

His friends said Wanchalearm was kidnapped by a group of men in a black vehicle while buying food in Phnom Penh on Thursday. 

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