Thailand

Thai authorities charge sister of disappeared political dissident

Sitanun Satsaksit charged with violating emergency decree prohibiting large gatherings

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Updated: October 18, 2021 04:31 AM GMT

Pro-democracy supporters and Sitanun Satsaksit (center), sister of Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, commemorate the first anniversary of his abduction with a candlelight vigil in Bangkok on June 4. (Photo: AFP)

Rights activists have slammed Thai authorities for charging the sister of a Thai political dissident who was abducted in Cambodia for giving a speech about her brother's case during a political rally in Bangkok.

Police have charged Sitanun Satsaksit, the sister of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was abducted in Phnom Penh in June last year and is presumed to have been killed, with violating an emergency decree that prohibits large gatherings.

Get the latest from UCA News. Sign up to receive our daily newsletter.

You have already subscribed. Thank you!

First they [Thai authorities] silenced Wanchalearm, now they are trying to silence Sitanun, a Thai pro-democracy activist who studies political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University told UCA News.

But they can't make us forget what happened. The more they try to shut us up, the more we will speak up, added the activist, who declined to be named.

Prayut Chan-o-cha, [a] dictator, wants to suppress freedom of expression [by silencing Sitanun], a commenter noted on social media, referring to the Thai prime minister.

Wanchalearm, then 37, was abducted by several men whose identity remains unknown outside an apartment building in Phnom Penh on June 4 last year and has not been seen since.

Why do they regard people like me with different political views as a threat to national security? Do we all have to think like them?

The disappearance of the Thai dissident, who lived in self-imposed exile in Cambodia, has become a lightning rod for young Thai pro-democracy activists who have accused Thai authorities of having been behind his abduction and likely murder.

Since her brother's disappearance, Sitanun has been publicly seeking justice for the activist by demanding that Thai authorities launch an investigation.

She has also spoken up several times at youth-led pro-democracy rallies during which demonstrators have been calling on PM Prayut, a former army chief who seized power in a coup in 2014, to resign.

All I am doing is calling for justice for a relative of mine, but the government considers me an enemy, Sitanun said during last month's rally where her presence prompted police to charge her with violating an emergency decree.

Why do they regard people like me with different political views as a threat to national security? Do we all have to think like them?  

She went on to explain that she feels compelled to carry on campaigning on behalf of her missing brother because the Thai justice system has failed him. She also criticized Thai authorities for allegedly harassing political dissidents.

Since the coup of 2014, at least nine Thai political dissidents living in exile in neighboring countries from Laos to Vietnam to Cambodia are known to have been disappeared.

Rights groups have been calling on Thai authorities to investigate the disappearance of all these activists, including the case of Wanchalearm, but seemingly to no avail.

This so-called investigation is an insult to Wanchalearm and his family

The past year [since Wanchalearm's disappearance] has been marked by foot-dragging, finger-pointing and the absence of any credible effort to examine what really happened to Wanchalearm, Ming Yu Hah, a rights campaigner at Amnesty International, said in a recent statement.

This so-called investigation is an insult to Wanchalearm and his family.  

The group has lambasted both Cambodian and Thai authorities for failing to investigate the dissident's disappearance.

In light of the criminal charges the Thai authorities had filed against Wanchalearm, in addition to the deeply disturbing pattern of enforced disappearance of Thai exiles from neighboring countries in recent years, a truly independent investigation free from government interference is desperately required, Amnesty International said.

Your contribution will help the Catholic journalists and editors in UCA News to report news, features, commentaries, video stories and podcasts on issues affecting the lives of millions of Catholics around the world.
Here is a gift of two valuable books as a token of appreciation to you. Check your mailbox for links to these PDF/e-Books.
Also Read
Features
Commentary