Protest at Thai PM's offices over alleged kidnapping of activist

A poster of missing Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit being held up during a protest outside Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's offices in Bangkok yesterday. Wanchalearm fled from Thailand following a 2014 military coup and is suspected to have bee
A poster of missing Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit being held up during a protest outside Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's offices in Bangkok yesterday. Wanchalearm fled from Thailand following a 2014 military coup and is suspected to have been kidnapped in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June 4. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • Protesters in the Thai capital held a small rally outside the Prime Minister's offices yesterday, urging the authorities to investigate the suspected kidnapping of an exiled activist by unknown gunmen last week in Cambodia.

Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 37, a previously little-known pro-democracy activist who fled from Thailand following a 2014 military coup, was seized on a street outside his apartment in Phnom Penh on June 4.

The Cambodian authorities initially said they did not have enough information to investigate, but later said they would.

Thai officials have denied any role in the disappearance.

"It has been more than a week since this happened, but there has been no progress in the investigation," Student Union of Thailand president Jutatip Sirikhan said at the rally outside Government House.

The rally was the latest in a series of small protests over the abduction in Bangkok. Public political dissent in Thailand is still rare even though democracy was officially restored last year after five years of military rule.

The leader of the military government, Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha, is now a civilian prime minister with the backing of pro-military politicians. Ms Jutatip, reading from a statement, spoke at the rally and called Mr Prayut a dictator. "The abduction of Wanchalearm is a heinous crime perpetrated by a dictatorial state, using its power to get rid of its political critics," she said.

On Monday, protesters outside the Cambodian embassy also demanded an investigation and accused the Thai state of orchestrating the kidnapping.

In recent years, at least eight Thai activists who fled after the 2014 coup have disappeared from Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, with the bodies of two of them found floating in the Mekong River.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2020, with the headline Protest at Thai PM's offices over alleged kidnapping of activist. Subscribe