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Missing Thai activist’s sister prays for clarity in disappearance case

Missing Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s sister, Sitanun Satsaksit (left), gets a blessing from monks on Friday, outside a condominium where her brother was allegedly abducted in June. Panha Chhorpoan
Missing Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s sister, Sitanun Satsaksit (left), gets a blessing from monks on Friday, outside a condominium where her brother was allegedly abducted in June. Panha Chhorpoan

The sister of a missing Thai pro-democracy activist conducted a small religious ceremony outside where he used to live in Chroy Changvar district, marking six months since the exiled activist’s alleged abduction.

Sitanun Satsaksit is the sister of Thai national Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was living in Phnom Penh and went missing on June 4. Wanchalearm’s family, aided by CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts, say he was abducted outside his apartment in Phnom Penh, but Cambodian police officials say they have no record of him being in the country beyond 2017, when his visa expired.  

The sister conducted a small Buddhist ceremony outside Mekong Gardens in Chroy Changvar district Friday morning, saying she was hoping to find more information about her brother, which she could present before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on December 8.

“We do not know the perpetrator; however, this is the duty and responsibility of the authorities both in Cambodia and Thailand to find the truth for us and for my family,” she said, using a translator.

Cambodian authorities initiated an investigation in June after receiving a request from Thailand, but has since said they have no leads on the activist’s disappearance. They said an SUV, seen in CCTV footage, that was allegedly involved in the abduction had fake license plates and that Wanchalearm did not live at the condominium, according to their investigation.

The Phnom Penh court has initiated an investigation into the case and Sitanun has travelled from Thailand to present evidence to support her claim that Wanchalearm was abducted in Phnom Penh.

Sitanun said she and her team of lawyers had submitted requests to meet senior Cambodian police officials but had not heard back from them as of Friday.

“We don’t know his whereabouts. That is what we are looking for and we can’t imagine what happened to him. This is so unbelievable what is happening,” Sitanun said.

Sitanun’s Cambodian lawyer, Sam Chamroern, said Wanchalearm’s sister would attend the December 8 hearing and present evidence to Phnom Penh Municipal investigating judge Sin Sovanroth.

  “We will give some more evidence to the investigating judge,” he said.

Sitanun Satsaksit, sister of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, speaks to the media on Friday in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district. Panha Chhorpoan
Sitanun Satsaksit, sister of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, speaks to the media on Friday in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district. Panha Chhorpoan

Sitanun said she will present some evidence, such as photos and video clips taken from the spot where he was allegedly abducted, and produce other information from his Facebook account.

“We have some evidence to prove and confirm that Wanchalearm was here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,” she said.

“The abduction happened here in Phnom Penh but we don’t have any clues about his whereabouts after the incident.”

The UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances has taken note of the case and asked the Cambodian government to keep it informed about progress made in the investigation.

Y Rin, a Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson, only confirmed that the hearing will be held as normal on December 8. A number of trials and hearings involving inmates from prison have been postponed on account of a new COVID-19 cluster.

National Police Spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun declined to comment because he was in 14-day quarantine due to the same COVID-19 outbreak and Interior Ministry Spokesperson Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.

Chin Malin, a spokesperson at the Justice Ministry, reiterated Cambodia’s position that Wanchalearm was not present in the country at the time of the alleged abduction.

“So, the information that he is missing in Cambodia, we do not know whether it is real or not,” he said.

Wanchalearm fled Thailand after the 2014 coup and was charged with computer crimes in connection to this Facebook page, where he posts satirical commentary of the Thai government. He is allegedly wanted for violating the country’s harsh lese-majeste law.

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