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Sister of missing Thai activist asks Cambodia to investigate

PHNOM PENH: Sitanan, sister of missing self-exiled Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. – AFP

PHNOM PENH: The sister of a missing Thai activist pleaded yesterday with a Cambodian court for a thorough investigation into her brother’s disappearance, more than six months after he was snatched off the streets of Phnom Penh. Democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit has not been seen or heard from since June 4, when he was dragged into a car in broad daylight according to witnesses and security camera footage. The 37-year-old was wanted by Thai police for running an acerbic anti-government Facebook page, and was living in the Cambodian capital in self-imposed exile before his disappearance.

His elder sister Sitanan travelled to Phnom Penh and appeared in court yesterday to plead for a proper investigation of her brother’s case – which has gotten no traction in Thailand’s justice system. Sitanan – who has waged a vocal campaign demanding answers from Thai authorities – said she is not sure she will ever see her brother again. “But if I can, I will be very grateful,” she told reporters after the hearing. Cambodian lawyer Sam Chamroeum said the investigating judge had asked for more evidence to be presented at a later date – after which they would decide whether the case would be taken to trial.

He added that the court has already issued charges against unidentified people for “illegal confinement and the use of illegal weapons” – an apparent acknowledgement of Wanchalearm’s disappearance within Cambodia’s borders. Amnesty International blasted the “snail’s pace” of the investigation. “The glaring inadequacies of this probe make a mockery of Cambodia’s obligations to conduct a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation,” said Amnesty’s Yamini Mishra, adding that key evidence “appears to have been ignored”.

Wanchalearm had fled Thailand after allegedly breaching the Computer Crimes Act and was also wanted for sedition, according to Thai police. His disappearance has been taken up by a youth-led pro-democracy movement in Thailand, drawing thousands to the streets demanding answers. At least nine pro-democracy activists living in exile have disappeared in recent years, according to Human Rights Watch. – AFP

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