The Thai government has refuted a Freedom House report that accuses the government of being behind the disappearance of activists that were opposed to the military-backed government or were accused of violating the country’s lese majeste laws.
The government, through a spokesman, said that the allegations by Freedom House were “irresponsible” and “damaging to the credibility of Freedom House itself.”
In a recently released report, Freedom House said that “the Thai Government is allegedly behind multiple assassinations and unexplained disappearances in Laos, renditions from Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as well as an assault in Japan.”
“The campaign appears to be a dissent-quelling strategy of the military-dominated government that first came to power in a 2014 coup,” according to the report.
Thailand’s government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, categorically denied the allegations and said that the country “prioritized the safety and well-being of all its nationals.”
“The allegations that Thailand has a campaign that forcibly [neutralizes] dissents are baseless, including allegations of the involvement of the government in enforced disappearances,” said Tanee Sangrat, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“It is not a crime to criticize the government and any insinuation that the government pursues enforced disappearances because of the victims’ anti-state activism is unfounded.”
Tanee added that legislation, long called for by rights groups, to outlaw torture and enforced disappearance “were being considered” in the legislative branch.
The Freedom House Report alluded to the case of Wanchalearm Satsakit, who was kidnapped while in exile in Cambodia, after posting a 53-second video criticizing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and who had previously criticized a 2014 military coup.
Wanchalearm was abducted by armed men outside of his apartment in Phnom Penh last year. His abduction sparked massive student-led protests throughout Thailand with many calling on the government to answer for his and the disappearance of other activists.
The government has largely avoided addressing Wanchalearm’s case directly and have denied any involvement in enforced disappearances on several occasions.