Enforced disappearance and regime lies

8 02 2021

Readers may have noticed a report at Thai Enquirer where a regime official liar spokesperson from the hopelessly compromised Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

categorically denied the allegations and said that the country “prioritized the safety and well-being of all its nationals…. The allegations that Thailand has a campaign that forcibly [neutralizes] dissents are baseless, including allegations of the involvement of the government in enforced disappearances….

If it wasn’t so serious, this would be laughable. This lie comes in response to a recently released report from Freedom House. Here’s what Freedom House reported:

Clipped from Thai Alliance for Human Rights website

The Thai government is allegedly behind multiple assassinations and unexplained disappearances in Laos, renditions from Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as well as an assault in Japan. The campaign appears to be a dissent-quelling strategy of the military-dominated government that first came to power in a 2014 coup,296 with the first documented case in 2016. It targets a narrow profile of individuals: all 11 people in cases documented by Freedom House were viewed by the government as engaging in anti-state actions in some form, including violating Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté law. All participated in some form of political activism and all but one engaged in blogging or journalism, with YouTube, radio, and social media platforms being the most common mediums.

Freedom House documented fewer cases of transnational repression by Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, but campaigns by all three took place in Thailand. Thailand detained and rendered two Cambodian exiles in 2018 at the apparent request of the Cambodian government, and Laos is reportedly responsible for a rendition and an unexplained disappearance in Thailand. A prominent Vietnamese blogger and government critic was rendered from Bangkok in 2019. Separately, four Vietnamese activists in Cambodia suffered an acid attack in 2017, believed to have been ordered by Vietnamese authorities. Vietnam has also operated farther afield. Trinh Xuân Thanh, a Vietnamese businessman, asylum seeker, and
former Communist Party official, was kidnapped from Berlin’s Tiergarten park in 2017 along with a companion. The pair were rendered to Vietnam, where Thanh was sentenced to two life terms in prison. Vietnamese authorities apparently dispatched a seven-person intelligence team to carry out the operation.

Tanee Sangrat, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declared: “It is not a crime to criticize the government and any insinuation that the government pursues enforced disappearances because of the victims’ anti-state activism is unfounded.”

Either Tanee is an unskilled liar or as thick as a brick. The number of arrests of the past 7-8 months have been enormous. We know that dullard puppets like Tanee will say that no one was arrested for criticizing the regime but for other “crimes.” But this fools no one. This is a corrupt and authoritarian regime, and, apparently also populated by dopes.





Updated: Going Chinese on Myanmar

1 02 2021

With a military coup in Myanmar, the military-backed and populated regime in Bangkok has responded as you would expect.

Despite bogus claims that the rigged 2019 election made the military junta somehow “democratic,” Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has shown that the military mindset rules.

Gen Prawit declared that the coup, the democratically-elected government that won in a landslide, and the military detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of her party as an “internal affair.”

This response sounded very much like it might have come from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Naturally enough, Cambodia’s autocratic leader Hun Sen concurred that it was an “internal matter.”

Of course, Gen Prawit has been involved in at least two military coups in Thailand and he and other military bosses are close to Myanmar’s military.

The company the regime keeps shows that military domination, coups, mad monarchism, and oligarchy does the country no good at all.

Update: Prachatai reports: “As the Myanmar military seizes power, detains politicians and declares a 1-year state of emergency, the democratic opposition in Thailand condemns the putsch and holds a protest in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok…”. In another Prachatai report, it is reported that “after Thais and Myanmarese staged a protest against the coup by the Myanmar military this afternoon, they were dispersed by the Royal Thai Police with shields and batons. 3 people were arrested.”

Thailand’s military-monarchy despots have become the protectors of authoritarian regimes.

 





Justice for Thailand’s disappeared

20 11 2020

Al Jazeera’s 101 East has a program available on Thailand’s victims of enforced disappearance. Given the significance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s abduction in Cambodia for the genesis of the current protests, it is well worth viewing.





Updated: Still missing

5 10 2020

It is now four months since the disappearance of activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit. He was snatched off the street in Phnom Penh in what was probably a black ops by the Thai military.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

Prachatai reports that Piyanut Kotsan, director of Amnesty International Thailand says “there has been no progress in Cambodian authorities’ investigation of his abduction.” Nothing.

Both the Thai and Cambodian governments refuse to do or say anything, suggesting the two governments collaborated in ignoring international law and “disappearing” Wanchaleam.

AI states:

We urge Cambodia to set up an investigation team to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough and transparent investigation and to ensure justice is served for the victim and his family. Four months on, there is still no progress in the investigation.

Further, we urge Thai authorities to provide all necessary assistance to facilitate Ms. Sitanan Satsaksit, Mr. Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s older sister’s travel to Cambodia to give evidence to public prosecutors there.

The Nation has a story reporting on Wanchalearm’s former girlfriend. She spent time with him in exile in Cambodia.

Update: Khaosod interviews Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun. Sadly but predictably, “she’s given up any hope on government actions,” and has “decided not to rely on either Thai or Cambodian government because both of them have not given her any satisfactory answer” on her brother’s abduction. Sitanun explained a Cambodian cover-up: “Cambodian authorities told her in August that Saksit was not found in the accommodation list of the apartment.” For them, he did not exist: “They said there was no Wanchalearm there on that day. That the license plate of the van which abducted him wasn’t real…. They are now trying to clean up any traces.”

Tellingly, she adds, the “person ordering it is not ordinary…”. Like everyone else, Sitanun “believes the Thai authorities were behind the abduction…”.





Talking to a brick wall

12 08 2020

It may be like talking to a brick wall yet it remains important that Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s family and Amnesty International Thailand are keeping the pressure on Cambodia over his enforced disappearance on 4 June 2020.

Young Thais continue to campaign for information on his fate.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Prachatai reports that they have asked for “a meeting with … Ouk Sorphorn, Ambassador of Cambodia to Thailand, to discuss and acknowledge investigation progress…”. THe call came on what would have been Wanchalearm’s 38th birthday.

Amnesty International Thailand “states that it has been two months since Wanchalearm has disappeared and there is no progress on his whereabouts either from Thai or Cambodian authority.” Most observers would consider this lack of progress to be reflective of official involvement and cover-up by both regimes. AI also notes that Cambodia is a state party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and has a responsibility to respond on the case. Of course, this assumes that the regime takes such an obligation seriously, and the evidence is that it does not.

Clipped from Prachatai

Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun Satsaksit, states that her family still lives in hope that there will be “answers both from Thai and Cambodian authority on Wanchalearm’s fate and whereabouts.”

As the disappearance is probably related to the absent monarch in Thailand (well, Germany), the Thai regime is going to remain mum. The Cambodians are supporting the semi-dictatorship in Bangkok.





Cambodian dissembling

20 07 2020

Prachatai reports that Cambodian authorities seem as purposely dimwitted as Thailand’s own police and authorities.

They have “denied any knowledge about the disappearance of Thai activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit, claiming that Wanchalearm did not make any further visa renewal request after his visa expired on 31 December 2017, and that no Cambodian agencies have any additional information about his disappearance other than what has appeared in news reports.”

The world knew this within days of Wanchalearm’s enforced abduction.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights stated that the Cambodian response was to Wanchalearm’s family officially seeking “immediate and urgent action regarding Wanchalearm’s disappearance.”

The best the Cambodian authorities could do was to repeat the nonsense they came up with weeks ago. They are lying to assist the Thai regime in covering up for their “disappearance” of the activist. The Cambodian government is reneging on commitments it has made to international bodies.

We fear he will never be heard of again. The likelihood is that he has been murdered by Thai agents.





Wanchalerm’s enforced disappearance

3 07 2020

Wanchalearm

Keeping the spotlight on the unexplained “disappearance” of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the BBC has a long feature article detailing the events and background to the likely state abduction of the political activist, then living in exile in Cambodia.

As the report observes, he is “the ninth exiled critic of Thailand’s military and monarchy to become a victim of enforced disappearance in recent years.”

We feel it is worth reading in full. There’s not a lot that is new for those who have been following the case, but it is useful to have it brought together.

The report emphasizes that those who abducted Wanchalearm were armed and threatening to those who tried to intervene. The abductors used a black SUV, often a sign of state involvement.

His satirical political commentary “made fun continuously of the military junta. He made fun of Gen Prayuth [Chan-ocha] … he made fun of other generals.”According to human rights observer Sunai Phasuk, Wanchalearm’s social media interventions were to “show that a commoner can make fun of those in power. That seemed to be the way of getting even with the oppressors.”

It seems the oppressors came to hate him and to fear his wit and popularity in Thailand, especially in the northeast. They had been after him since the 2014 military coup and issued an “arrest warrant for Wanchalearm based on allegations he violated the Computer-Related Crime Act” in June 2018, with the authorities vowing to bring him back to Thailand. Now he’s gone.

Jakrapob

Jakrapob Penkair, also a political exile, says the junta/post-junta message is clear:

Let’s kill these folks. These are outsiders, these are people who are different from us and they should be killed in order to bring Thailand back to normalcy….

The reaction in Thailand to Wanchalearm’s disappearance has varied by political position, with regime supporters, royalists and yellow shirts cheering.

However, it has also “sparked protests in Bangkok, with demonstrators accusing the Thai government of involvement, while demanding the Cambodian government investigate the case fully.”

The enforced disappearance also caused the “hashtag ‘#abolish112’ was also written or retweeted more than 450,000 times.” The undertone is that the king is involved in these disappearances:

Many activists believe this abduction is linked to the palace, but the strict laws against any negative comment on the monarchy make this a dangerous link to explore or investigate.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, described as “a prominent activist who served seven years in jail on charges of lese majeste” explains that:

The objective of kidnapping is to kill him and to create the atmosphere of fear in Thailand and other countries where [Thai] people are active in criticising the monarchy….

Somyot is reported to be “in little doubt as to who was behind the disappearance”:

The government knows very well about this kidnap and disappearance. I can insist that the government are the ones behind this violation….

The regime says it knows nothing. No one believes it.





Further updated: Where’s Wanchalearm?

26 06 2020

On 23 June, the family of missing activist in exile Wanchalearm Satsaksit has filed a complaint with “the  Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Justice’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), calling for an investigation into his disappearance, while also preparing to file a complaint with the Cambodian police.”

When Wanchalearm’s sister Sitanun Satsaksit , submitted her complaint to the Office of the Attorney, she was “joined by Pranee Danwattanusorn … whose husband Sur[a]chai went missing while in exile in Laos, and Kanya Theerawut … mother of Siam Theerawut, another missing activist.

They are supported by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights: “A TLHR lawyer said that the family is filing a complaint … calling for the authorities to launch an investigation in order to find and prosecute the three people who abducted Wanchalearm.”

Wanchalearm’s family has called on the Thai government to find whether:

  • Wanchalearm has been arrested in Cambodia and why, and if this is the case,
  • he is in custody in Cambodia and where;
  • the Thai authorities were notified of Wanchalearm’s arrest by the Cambodian authorities;
  • the Thai authorities requested the Cambodian authorities to send Wanchalearm back to Thailand to be prosecuted, and
  • the Cambodian authorities returned Wanchalearm to Thailand.

The family also asked that Thai authorities “investigate Wanchalearm’s possible torture and enforced disappearance” and demanded to know “if the authorities have information on Wanchalearm’s fate or whereabouts…”.

It must suit the military-backed regime in Bangkok that Sitanun and her family cannot travel to Cambodia because of the so-called virus crisis. She revealed that “the Cambodian police said they cannot investigate the case because Wanchalearm’s relatives has not filed a complaint about his disappearance.” Getting legal representation in Cambodia ha proven a challenge, not just because of cost, but “because some lawyers have withdrawn from the case as they did not want to take the risk.” That suggests collusion between the two authoritarian regimes.

In an interview at Thisrupt, Sitanun stated that she and her mother “hope that he is still alive.” She added that “if he is dead, at least give us confirmation, because not knowing whether he is dead or alive is very difficult.”

In the more than three weeks since Wanchalearm’s disappearance the junta’s regime has done nothing. Again, that provides reasonable grounds for suspicion that the regime is deeply involved with the crime.

There is a social media campaign using the hashtag #savewanchalearm going “until he is found. To not also let the topic disappear.” At the same time, “people have been putting up posters and tying white ribbons around Bangkok, demanding justice for Wanchalearm.”

Of course, the regime’s minions have been busy taking them down, another piece of circumstantial evidence of its complicity in the enforced disappearance.

There have also been several rallies in support of Wanchalearm and demanding the authorities reveal his whereabouts.

Update 1: The New York Times has a detailed report on Wanchalearm, enforced disappearances, and the political context, stating:

At least nine prominent critics of the Thai government have vanished over the past two years, according to human rights groups. It is a pattern of disappearances that the Thai public is having a hard time ignoring….

It also has details of the abduction of Wanchalearm and the official cover-ups in Cambodia and Thailand.

Meanwhile, VOA Khmer has more on the Cambodian police response. Not only is it insipid, but it reeks of covering up for powerful interests. Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Koy Kuong is quoted as saying that the Cambodian side “had sent a note to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh on June 11 … but that the Foreign Ministry had not heard back from their Thai counterparts.” Koy added the obvious: “They have not requested anything else for us to do…. [W]e told them that the police will continue to investigate.” In this, “investigate” means throwing as much dust in the air as possible.

Update 2: Members of the European Parliament have issued a statement of concern about Wanchalearm’s disappearance.





Another dissident disappeared

5 06 2020

As long-time readers will know, since the 2014 coup and more especially since the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn, anti-coup, anti-military and anti-monarchy activists have been tortured, killed and disappeared.

Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch reports yet another abduction.

We reproduce the HRW alert below:

Cambodia: Thai Activist Abducted in Phnom Penh
Urgently Locate Wanchalerm Satsaksit

(Bangkok) – Cambodian authorities should urgently investigate the abduction of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a prominent Thai pro-democracy activist living in exile in Phnom Penh, and publicly reveal their findings, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch expressed deep concern for Wanchalearm’s safety.

“The abduction of a prominent Thai political activist on the streets of Phnom Penh demands an immediate response from Cambodian authorities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Cambodian government should urgently act to locate Wanchalearm and ensure his safety.”

At about 5:54 p.m. on June 4, 2020, a group of armed men abducted Wanchalearm as he walked on the street to buy food in front of his apartment, and took him away in a black car, according to several witnesses and apartment security cameras. Wanchalearm’s colleague, who was talking on the telephone with him when the abduction occurred, heard him scream, “Argh, I can’t breathe,” before the call was cut off.

Neither the Cambodian nor Thai government authorities have responded to media inquiries about Wanchalearm’s abduction.

Wanchalearm is a prominent pro-democracy activist affiliated with the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the “Red Shirts.” He fled to Cambodia after the May 2014 military coup in Thailand. He continues to be politically active in exile, frequently making comments critical of the Thai government on social media. Wanchalearm posted his most recent video clip on Facebook on June 3, criticizing Thailand’s Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.

In June 2018, Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant for Wanchalearm based on allegations he violated the Computer-Related Crime Act by operating a Facebook page Ku Tong Dai 100 Lan Jak Thaksin Nae Nae (I will surely get 100 million baht from Thaksin) critical of the Thai government from Phnom Penh. At that time, senior Thai police officers vowed to bring Wanchalearm back to Thailand one way or another.

Since the May 2014 coup, Thai authorities have aggressively pursued the apprehension of pro-democracy activists who took refuge in neighboring countries. The Thai government has repeatedly demanded that Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia hand over those exiled Thai activists. At least eight of them have become victims of enforced disappearance.

Over the past six years, Cambodia and Thailand have closely collaborated to harass, arbitrarily arrest, and forcibly return exiled dissidents in violation of international law. This collaboration has included people formally registered as persons of concern by the United Nations refugee agency. Wanchalearm previously told Human Rights Watch he had occasionally been put under surveillance by Thai officials in Cambodia.

“The Cambodian government is obligated to find out what happened to Wanchalearm, who was taken away at gunpoint in Phnom Penh, and ensure he is safe,” Adams said. “Foreign governments and donors should press the Cambodian government to take all necessary measures to find Wanchalearm or risk being complicit in his abduction.”





Human rights gone

3 02 2019

The record on human rights under the military dictatorship has been worse than abysmal.

Both accredited refugees and those seeking refuge have been “disappeared” or have been returned to the countries they fled. In most cases, it seems likely that deals have been done between the dictatorship in Thailand and dictatorial regimes in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China.

Uighurs have been deported back to China, sometimes chained and hooded, and en masse. Chinese dissidents have suddenly “disappeared” in Thailand to reappear, in China, in the custody of officials, suggestive of deals being done between regimes to allow foreign forces to operate with impunity on Thai soil. Cambodian dissidents have been deported back to prisons in their country.

The there seem to be deals done that allow Thai hunter-killer squads to operate in Laos, torturing and murdering.

Recently, Thailand has cooperated with Bahrain’s monarchy is arresting and seeking to extradite a dissident footballer who has refugee status in Australia. Thailand doesn’t have an extradition agreement with Bahrain, but they still plan to send him back. Rightist officials in Australia seem to have facilitated this situation.

And, now, the news that former Vietnamese political prisoner, Truong Duy Nhat, has “gone missing” in Bangkok.

There’s a pattern emerging regionally. Presumably the reason for dictatorial regimes cooperating is to allow them to threaten and silence all dissidents, at home and abroad.