Cambodia Closes Probe Into Abduction of Thai Activist Amidst Calls for Transparency

Last Updated on March 9, 2024 12:37 pm

Cambodian authorities announced on February 27 that they have officially closed the investigation into the abduction of Thai pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who went missing in Phnom Penh on June 4, 2020. Eyewitnesses reported that Wanchalearm was forced into a black Toyota Highlander SUV near his residence at the Mekong Gardens condominium.

Khieu Sopheak, the secretary of state and spokesman for Cambodia’s Interior Ministry, stated, “We have filed the report to court, and the investigation is finished.” However, it remains unclear whether the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has formally closed the case, as Wanchalearm’s Cambodian lawyer, Sam Chamroeun, claimed to have received no official notice.

The lack of transparency in the investigation has drawn criticism from Wanchalearm’s family and human rights advocacy groups. They have called on the Thai government to press Cambodia for information on the status of the inquiry and to address the apparent closure of the case.

Wanchalearm’s sister, Sitanun Satsaksit, expressed her frustration, saying, “It has been four years. I want them to tell the family members what happened, how the investigation is. It should not be secret anymore.”

The U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances issued a statement on March 5, urging Cambodia to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into Wanchalearm’s disappearance. The committee emphasized the importance of keeping Wanchalearm’s family informed throughout the probe.

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, director of the Cross Cultural Foundation, criticized Cambodia’s lack of openness regarding the case and called for evidence to support their claims that no state agents were involved.

Wanchalearm, a political science graduate, fled to Cambodia after the 2014 military coup in Thailand. He received a visa to stay in Cambodia in 2017, but the Interior Ministry has no record of his residence in the following years.

Efforts to seek justice for Wanchalearm’s disappearance continue as his legal team and family seek clarification on the case’s status. The international community watches closely, calling for transparency and accountability in resolving this alleged forced disappearance.

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