Cambodia / Thailand: one year later, still no justice for Wanchalearm
Cambodia’s investigation was negligent and failed to establish the fate and whereabouts of Wanchalearm Satsaksit
Thailand, ASEAN urged to undertake independent investigations on their own
Cambodian authorities have failed in their legal obligation to properly investigate the enforced disappearance of Thai dissident Wanchalearm Satsaksit, Amnesty International said today, a year after his last appearance in Phnom Penh.
The organization urges the Thai authorities to launch their own independent investigation into the disappearance of the Thai national, given the obvious failure of the Cambodian investigation to establish the fate and whereabouts of Wanchalearm.
This negligent investigation has stalled. The past year has been marked by dragging its feet, finger pointing and the absence of any credible effort to examine what really happened to Wanchalearm.
“This negligent investigation has stalled. The past year has been marked by dragging its feet, finger pointing and the absence of any credible effort to examine what really happened to Wanchalearm. This so-called investigation is an insult to Wanchalearm and his family and must be revitalized, ”said Ming Yu Hah, deputy regional director of campaigns for Amnesty International.
“The Cambodian authorities’ continued failure to properly investigate Wanchalearm’s enforced disappearance constitutes a flagrant violation of Cambodia’s international human rights obligations. “
Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the Cambodian authorities have so far failed in their obligation to conduct a prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the case and to determine the fate and whereabouts of Wanchalearm , in accordance with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED), of which Cambodia is a party.
A criminal investigation into the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit has been officially underway in Cambodia since September 2020. In December 2020, Amnesty International critical the lack of progress in the investigation and called for a series of urgent measures to bring the investigation into line with international human rights law and standards. None of these measures have been implemented since then and alarmingly the investigation appears to be completely stalled.
As of March 2021, Cambodian authorities reported no significant progress in the investigation in their latest reply joint communication from a range of United Nations special procedures, including the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The response also appears to place the burden of the investigation on Wanchalearm’s family, despite this clear obligation on Cambodian authorities under international human rights law.
Since Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm’s sister, testified in a Phnom Penh court in December 2020, authorities have not reported any new investigative action taken in connection with the case. The inadequate response from Cambodian authorities and the lack of due diligence to respond to new evidence provided by Wanchalearm’s sister reinforce fundamental concerns about the credibility of the investigation.
Time for Thailand and ASEAN to launch independent investigations
In light of the clear failures of the Cambodian investigation to date, on June 4, Amnesty International will send an open letter to the Attorney General of Thailand highlighting the failures of the Cambodian investigation and calling on the Attorney General to immediately initiate an investigation. formal. with the Department of Special Investigations into the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit under Section 21 of Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations Act 2547.
Given the glaring shortcomings of the Cambodian investigation, it is high time the Thai authorities step up and undertake a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the enforced disappearance of their own citizen abroad.
In order to further preserve the independence and credibility of the investigation, Amnesty International recommends that the investigation closely involve the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.
“Given the glaring inadequacies of the Cambodian investigation, it is high time the Thai authorities step up and undertake a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the enforced disappearance of their own citizen abroad,” said Ming Yu Hah.
“In light of the criminal charges that Thai authorities have filed against Wanchalearm, in addition to the deeply disturbing pattern of the enforced disappearance of Thai exiles from neighboring countries in recent years, a truly independent and government-free investigation is desperately needed . “
Amnesty International further reiterates its appeals to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to play a more active role in facilitating cooperation among the various ASEAN countries in order to provide the greatest measure of mutual assistance to victims of enforced disappearance, as well as in the search for, locating and freeing forcibly disappeared persons in South East Asia.
“The silence of ASEAN and AICHR in the face of cross-border enforced disappearances in the region is shameful. This is regional cooperation at its absolute worst, ”Ming Yu Hah said.
“Widespread impunity, injustice and human rights violations are facilitated by the inaction of the regional body. It is high time ASEAN took a principled position on enforced disappearances.
Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 37, is a Thai activist in exile in Cambodia. Her sister, Sitanun, reported her kidnapping on June 4, 2020. CCTV footage released to media following the kidnapping shows a blue Toyota Highlander leaving the scene where Wanchalearm Satsaksit was last seen shortly after. The footage also shows two men who appear to have witnessed the kidnapping
Thai authorities previously filed pending criminal charges against Wanchalearm, most recently in 2018 under the Computer Crime Act, alleging he posted anti-government material on a satirical Facebook page. Thai authorities would have requested Wanchalearm’s extradition from Cambodia at the time, although Cambodian authorities have not publicly acknowledged having received such a request. Thai authorities had previously lodged a complaint against him for failing to appear at a summons issued in 2014 to a wide range of activists and political figures after the military coup in May of the same year.
In December 2020, six months after the enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, Amnesty International expressed serious concerns about the pace and thoroughness of the Cambodian investigation and called on the Cambodian authorities to identify and interview relevant witnesses who could be seen in publicly available CCTV footage. The organization also called on the Cambodian authorities to provide Wanchalearm’s family with information on the progress and results of the investigation in a way that also ensures the effectiveness of the investigation. None of these recommendations appear to have been implemented since December 2020.
Amnesty International has previously expressed concern for the safety of Thai exiles in neighboring countries whose extradition has been requested by the Thai authorities. The enforced disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit fits a deeply alarming pattern of kidnappings and murders since June 2016 of at least nine Thai activists in exile by strangers in neighboring countries namely Laos and Viet Nam.
In each case, the Thai authorities had requested the arrest or extradition of individuals in connection with criminal charges filed in connection with their exercise of the right to freedom of expression, often online and in some cases in exile.
Faced with this pattern of disappearances, murders and impunity that reigns in the region, Amnesty International has Many times urged the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the supreme human rights body of ASEAN, to exercise its mandate “to obtain information from ASEAN member states on the promotion and protection of human rights ”in order to shed light on enforced disappearances such as the one in Wanchalearm. Faced with this pattern of disappearances, murders and impunity that reigns in the region, Amnesty International has Many times urged the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the supreme human rights body of ASEAN, to exercise its mandate “to obtain information from ASEAN member states on the promotion and protection of human rights ”in order to shed light on enforced disappearances such as the one in Wanchalearm.