BANGKOK — Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday challenged the government to explain the fate of a Thai fugitive activist who disappeared in Cambodia last week.
Speaking during today’s parliamentary session, Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome accused the government of neglecting the alleged abduction of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit and other Thai dissidents abroad. The opposition will also assign the House Committee on law and human rights to look into the suspected abduction today, he said.
“The government doesn’t bother to find him,” Rangsiman said. “Since Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha assumed power, there have been nine kidnappings like this so far. Seven of them remain missing, while two of them are confirmed dead without any explanation from the government.”
Rangsiman also asked PM Prayut whether government officials are involved with the spate of disappearances, while Pheu Thai MP Somkid Chuakong questioned the progress of foreign ministry’s efforts to work with Cambodian authorities in finding Wanchalearm.
Foreign minister Don Pramudwinai said all the Thai government could do is to allow some time for the Cambodian counterparts to probe into the case, since Wanchalearm is not a registered refugee.
“I’ve been the foreign minister for six years but I never saw Wanchalearm’s name before,” Don said. “This may be because the name is insignificant in international and security communities.”
He continued, “We will have to wait for answers from Cambodian government. As far as I know, they have launched an investigation into it.”
Don also dismissed reports from rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International which described Wanchalearm as a victim of enforced disappearance.
“They just want to stir the news for public attention,” Don said. “We should wait for explanations from Cambodia.”
Justice minister Somsak Thepsuthin said both the foreign ministry and Cambodian government were unable to confirm whether the alleged abduction has taken place, though the ministry is willing to look into the case of nine missing dissidents.
“I can’t give any answers regarding the alleged abduction of Wanchalearm,” Somsak said. “Although this is an unusual circumstance, no one knows about it because the incident happened on Cambodia’s sovereignty. That’s all I can tell.”
Although both the Thai and Cambodian government had been reluctant to investigate the case, the Cambodian side appeared to change tact and launched an investigation into Wanchalearm’s abduction on Tuesday, according to Cambodia-based newspaper Khmer Times.
Cambodia’s foreign ministry spokesman Koy Koung was quoted as saying his agency has received a request to open the investigation from Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia has never received any request from Thailand to arrest or extradite Wanchalearm, interior minister spokesman Khieu Sopheak told Khmer Times.