June 12, 2020 / 8:02 AM / a month ago

Thai protesters demand investigation of exile's kidnapping

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Protesters in the Thai capital held a small rally outside the prime minister’s offices on Friday urging authorities to investigate the suspected kidnapping of an exiled activist by unknown gunmen last week in Cambodia.

An activist holds up a picture of abducted Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit as people gather in support of him during a protest calling for an investigation, in front of the Government house in Bangkok, Thailand, June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

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.

Cambodian authorities initially said they did not have enough information to investigate but later said they would. Thai government 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,” Jutatip Sirikhan, president of the Student Union of Thailand, 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, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is now a civilian prime minister with the backing of pro-military politicians.

Jutatip, reading from a statement, told the rally Prayuth was 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.

Wanchalearm was speaking on his mobile phone to his elder sister, Sitanun Satsaksit, when he was abducted, she said.

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.

Thai authorities have said they had nothing to do with disappearances.

Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel

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