Updated: Calling on the regime to protect

20 06 2020

The Asia Democracy Network and Forum Asia have released a statement on the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit and the responsibility of the Thai regime to respond. We reproduce it in full:

[Joint Statement] Thailand: Government should commit towards locating missing activist and protecting human rights defenders
17 June 2020 3:39 pm

(Jakarta, 17 June 2020) – The Thai government’s inadequate response to the enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist Wanchalerm Satsaksit demonstrates its failure to protect human rights defenders and other dissenting voices, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asia Democracy Network said today.

Unidentified assailants abducted Wanchalerm in front of his residence in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 4 June. Following the 2014 coup when the ruling Pheu Thai government was ousted by the military, Wanchalerm fled to Cambodia in fear of reprisals. Wanchalerm was affiliated with the Pheu Thai party. In 2018, he was issued with an arrest warrant for allegedly violating the Computer Crime Act over his role as an administrator of an anti-government Facebook page.

Wanchalerm’s disappearance prompted outrage on social media. Peaceful gatherings in Thailand calling for a thorough investigation were held, although authorities cracked down on them. Student activists were detained and charged for tying white bows at the Democracy Monument and several other government buildings over the past two weeks. At least ten other demonstrators were summoned for allegedly carrying out an unlawful assembly and violating the Emergency Decree.

‘Thailand’s actions towards Wanchalerm and other activists are the exact actions that human rights defenders are fighting against. The government should focus on finding Wanchalerm instead of targeting those who call for accountability,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

Wanchalerm is not the first Thai activist to have been disappeared while in exile. Since 2016, at least eight other exiled Thai activists have been abducted under unknown circumstances. Two were found dead near the Thailand-Laos border in December 2018.

These enforced disappearances demonstrate the precarious situation of Thai dissidents even after fleeing the country. In the first place, they should not have to feel the need to leave merely for exercising their fundamental rights.

‘If Thailand is to build public trust, they must commit towards ensuring the safe return of Wanchalerm and the other disappeared human rights defenders. The government should take genuine steps towards institutionalising better protection for all activists and human rights defenders,’ said Ichal Supriadi, Secretary General of the Asia Democracy Network.

Until the Thai government can demonstrate its commitment and proactive measures taken towards upholding the security and safety of all activists and human rights defenders, it will continue to face public doubt on any political will in resolving cases of disappearance, said the rights groups.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a regional network of 81 member organisations across 21 Asian countries, with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity-development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has sub-regional offices in Geneva, Jakarta, and Kathmandu. www.forum-asia.org

The Asia Democracy Network (ADN) works to promote and advance democratisation and democratic governance at all levels of society through effective solidarity and cooperation among civil society organisations and democracy advocates in Asia. ADN is committed to building a just, equitable and sustainable community of democratic societies in Asia, where all human rights of all individuals, groups and peoples are fully respected and realised. www.adnasia.org

For further information, please contact:
• East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA, ea-asean@forum-asia.org

For media inquiries, please contact:
• Yi-Lan, Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA, communication@forum-asia.org

Update: The call to protect was earlier taken up by the Law Faculty at Thammasat University. This is a translation, in full:

Declaration on the Case of Mr. Wanchalerm Satsaksit

Members of the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University

The disappearance of Mr. Wanchalerm Satsaksit, who had been living in Cambodia, has been reported in the news. Although neither the Thai nor the Cambodian state authorities have officially confirmed either the incident or his fate, domestic and international media reportage has created significant and broad suspicion and fear regarding his fate and the role of the government in protecting rights and liberties. In addition, questions and debates have arisen as to whether or not, and to what degree, the rights of individuals who have been accused of committing crimes and have fled to avoid prosecution should be protected by the legal system and those who enforce the law in Thailand, and, what the government and state agencies, as those who enforce the law and protect the rights and liberties of the people, should do in such a situation.

With regard to the aforementioned questions and debates, members of the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University, whose names are listed at the end of this declaration, share the collective view that all Thai people are rights holders under the constitution. This means that they hold the right to life and physical integrity, the right to think, the right to express their opinions, and the right to join together to transform society in accordance with a manner in which the majority of society agrees. It could perhaps be said that the constitutional rights covering the aforementioned key points comprise the “fundamental values” of collective life in a democratic political society that causes the lives of those in such a society to have value, meaning, and hope.A state that is a legal state does not only have the duty to refrain from all actions that conflict with the rights and liberties of the people, but also has “a duty to protect fundamental rights,” which is the duty of the state in the direct maintenance of the fundamental values of democratic political society and the constitutional system. Sincere actions taken by the state to protect the lives and persons of the people creates the opportunity for the people to freely express their opinions. Fostering the people’s peaceful political expression, no matter their political viewpoint, may function as an instrument to confirm that those who hold state power truly intend to protect and preserve the aforementioned fundamental values of society and may build confidence for all of the people that they can live collectively in true peace and happiness.

All Thai people, no matter their status, have rights under the constitution and the protection of these rights as noted above. Even those individuals who are accused in criminal cases and have fled legal prosecution remain full holders of basic rights as Thai people and have the right to call for the state to protect and safeguard their life and physical integrity. They have the right to think, which extends to political expression. State provision of protection of the rights and liberties, and protection of the lives, of the aforementioned individuals, is not only the performance of its basic duty as a legal state, but is also the expression of the value that Thailand possesses effective mechanisms to protect rights and liberties, which is a fundamental value of the state in a true liberal democracy.

For the aforementioned reasons, members of the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University, whose names are listed at the end of this declaration, call on the government and relevant state agencies to proceed conscientiously and without delay in providing assistance to Mr. Wanchalerm Satsaksit and other citizens in the same situation, to be free from danger; to search for facts in these cases; and to contact, coordinate and report on progress to the public in a clear and swift manner. By doing so, the government and state agencies will demonstrate their correct and complete performance of their basic duties to protect the rights and liberties of the people.

    1. Associate Professor Dr. Munin Pongsapan
    2. Associate Professor Dr. Supreeya Kaewla-iad
    3. Associate Professor Dr. Torpong Kittiyanupong
    4. Assistant Professor Dr. Ronnakorn Bunmee
    5. Associate Professor Dr. Niramai Phitkhae Manjit
    6. Assistant Professor Dr. Korrasut Khopuangklang
    7. Assistant Professor Dr. Aimpaga Techa-apikun
    8. Assistant Professor Dr. Jaruprapa Rakpong
    9. Assistant Professor Dr. Tarmphong Chobisara
    10. Assistant Professor Dr. Naporn Popattanachai
    11. Dr. Lalin Kovudhikulrungsri
    12. Dr. Nattika Sriphongkul
    13. Dr. Pananya Larbprasertporn
    14. Mr. Mespiti Poolsavasdi
    15. Associate Professor Dr.Phunthip Kanchanachitra Saisoonthorn
    16. Professor Dr. Worachet Pakeerut
    17. Assistant Professor Dr. Prinya Thaewanarumitkul
    18. Professor Dr. Sumet Sirikunchoat
    19. Assistant Professor Teera Suteevarangkul
    20. Ms. Nadnaphas Leakpech
    21. Assistant Professor Dr. JantajiraIammayura
    22. Mr. Disorn Likhitwitayawuid
    23. Assistant Professor Sawatree Suksri
    24. Mr. Chatdanai Samanpan
    25. Dr. Thapanan Nipithakul
    26. Mr. Pawee Jenweeranon
    27. Mr. Kongsatja Suwanapech
    28. Mr. Saharat Augnistasat
    29. Ms. Matika Vinichsorn
    30. Ms. Thitirat Thipsamritkul
    31. Mr. Phattharaphong Saengkrai
    32. Mr. Kittipob Wangkham

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