[Update-1] Thai police denies involvement in the kidnapping of self-exiled political activist after he posted a video criticizing the PM

Another anti-government activist, Wanchalearm Satsakit, was kidnapped on Thursday while in exile in Cambodia after posting a 53-second video criticizing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, according to local reports.

Wanchalearm was abducted by armed men outside of his apartment in Phnom Penh around 6 p.m. on Thursday.

CCTV caught footage of a black SUV pulling up in front of the apartment as a security guard tried to assist the 35-year-old.

An unnamed source, who is said to be a friend of Wanchalearm, told Prachatai that he was on the phone when the kidnapping took place. The last words he heard from Wanchalearm were: “Ouch, I can’t breathe.” 

In response, the hashtag #saveวันเฉลิม went viral in the last 24 hours with over 500,000 tweets as Thai netizens call awareness to the kidnapping of Wanchalearm and other activists in exile.

Deputy police spokesman, Police Lieutenant Colonel Krisana Patanacharoen said on Friday that Wanchalearm is wanted for violation of the Computer Crime Act along with eight to nine other people who have already been arrested.

Krisana said the Thai police were not aware of the kidnapping until the news came out as it happened outside of the country.

When asked if the kidnapping was part of Cambodia’s police operation to arrest Wanchalearm based on the warrant in Thailand, Krisana said the Thai police have yet to speak to the Cambodian police on the matter.

Since the coup of 2014, more than 100 Thais have chosen to seek political refuge in other countries, and at least six, including pro-Maoist communist Surachai Sae Dan, have gone missing. 

Wanchalearm fled to Cambodia after the previous Junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), issued an arrest warrant for him based on the controversial Computer Crime Act. 

He, along with many activists, had failed to follow the NCPO’s order for political activists and oppositions to gather after the coup. 

Wanchalearm’s friend added that Cambodia, and ASEAN as a whole, was no longer a safe place for Thais living in self-exile and many have chosen to seek refuge instead in Europe, the US or Japan. 

He said the “people in power” in Thailand have made many likeminded powerful friends in the region.  

This was an act of killing a chicken for the monkeys to see,” he told Prachatai.    

Many of these activists are wanted for violation against the Computer Crime Act and lèse-majesté, or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. 

Among those who have gone missing, the bodies of Sahai Kasalong, 47, and Sahai Phuchana, 54, were found on the shores of the Mekong River on December 29, 2018. The two had disappeared along with Surachai on December 6, 2018. 

The whereabouts of Wanchalearm and Surachai remain unknown.

[Photo Credit: Prachatai]

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