SAMUT PRAKAN — Police on Tuesday said a pro-democracy campaigner who filed a false report that he was abducted by security officers appears to have gone into hiding.
Mongkol “Yale” Santimethakul, a member of the protesters’ security network, was nowhere to be found more than a week after he said he was carried off in an unmarked van after joining a protest on Jan. 16. Police said an arrest warrant was issued on Thursday after Mongkol did not show up for questioning as summoned.
“We couldn’t find him anywhere,” Samut Prakan provincial police commander Chumpol Phumphuang said. “We went to his apartment in Samut Prakan province and his home in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, but there are no signs of him.”
Maj. Gen. Chumpol added, “His father said he hasn’t heard from his son ever since the news broke.”
Mongkol said he was manhandled into the van by a group of men claiming to be security officers on the night of Jan. 16 before they freed him on the following day. But investigators said Mongkol could be seen in CCTV footage walking down a street and an apartment hallway on his own at the time when he was supposed to be blindfolded and detained inside the van.
Although Mongkol’s peers accused the Internal Security Operations Command of engineering the kidnapping to intimidate the activist, the agency quickly denied any involvement.
The Guard Coalition for the People, the group that Mongkol volunteered as a member, later released a statement on Jan. 20 urging Mongkol and the authorities to clarify the matter.
“We’d let the police investigate and verify whether this is a hoax. We want to know the facts, too,” part of the statement said. “If there is clear evidence that Yale made it up, and there was no abduction as the news reported, he will have to be held responsible for what he did.”
Police also said Mongkol is an ex-soldier wanted for deserting his post back in 2019.
Chumpol said the activist would be prosecuted for filing a false police report once he is arrested, and he would be later transferred to a military tribunal for the alleged desertion.
The army confirmed that Mongkol is a serviceman stationed at an infantry school in Prachuap Khiri Khan before he went AWOL in December 2019.
Fellow activists said they were perplexed by Mongkol’s silence. The leader of the Guard Coalition for the People said he never heard from Mongkol ever since he was reunited with his group.
“He’s gone under the radar,” Kitpiwat Sriboonruang said, adding that he’s still convinced that Mongkol wasn’t making up the abduction.
“I really believed that he was abducted when we found him. He was shaking and appeared to be shocked. If he was acting, he would be a very good actor.”