The legal team of missing Thai activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit submitted more evidence to Thai officials to support their allegation that he was abducted in Phnom Penh last year, including a copy of the activist’s purported Cambodian passport.
Sitanun Satsaksit, Wanchalearm’s sister, filed additional documents to the Office of the Attorney General in Bangkok’s Taling Chan District last week. She is challenging official narratives in both Thailand and Cambodia that her brother was not abducted from outside his apartment in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district last June.
The documents include an old-format Cambodian passport issued to “Sok Heng”, with the birthplace listed as Koh Kong province and date of birth in 1982. The passport was issued on August 25, 2015, with validity up to 2025.
The passport photograph resembles recent photos of Wanchalearm from his Facebook page, the only difference being he is not wearing his glasses in the passport photo.
“I learned that since 2015 he obtained his Cambodia passport,” Sitanun told VOA Khmer.
VOA Khmer has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the passport
While exiled in Cambodia, Sitanun said that Wanchalearm used this passport to travel to China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, and Uganda.
Wanchalearm was allegedly abducted outside his apartment building last June and has not been seen since. Eyewitnesses near Mekong Gardens condominium told VOA Khmer that Wanchalearm was abducted by a group of masked men.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, in an August 2020 correspondence to United Nations investigators, denied both Wanchalearm’s presence in Cambodia and the family’s claims surrounding his disappearance.
Sitanun said the new evidence should be enough to revive the nearly-stagnant investigations in both Cambodia and Thailand.
“They both must restart the investigation and accept the fact that he was in Cambodia,” she said.
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a human rights advocate who is part of Sitanun’s legal team, said the passport proved Wanchalearm’s existence in Cambodia and challenged the Cambodian authorities’ narrative that there was no record of him after his visa expired in 2017.
“Even though they say no, it doesn’t matter. The facts here help tell the truth that he had a Cambodian passport,” she said. “There is a [passport] number, there is a photo that looks exactly like him, and there is a name … and he used it to travel to many countries.”
Khongkachonkiet said the family had a copy of the passport which was retrieved from a flight ticket transaction conducted by Wanchalearm. The family could not extract the actual passport from the apartment after the alleged abduction took place, she added.
Cambodian Interior Ministry Spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said Cambodian authorities had neither issued a passport to Wanchalearm nor granted him citizenship to get the travel document.
“Regarding that alleged Cambodian passport reportedly held by Wanchalearm, I would like to clarify that it is not a legitimate passport issued by the Ministry and that this could amount to the potential forgery of a Cambodian passport,” Khieu Sopheak said.
“How is it possible for Wanchalearm, a foreign national? He needs a royal decree granting him citizenship first, otherwise, he would be using an illegal passport, which is a felony.”
Khieu Sopheak stood by the Cambodian government’s assertion that the Thai activist’s visa, using a Thai passport, expired on December 31, 2017. He added that there was no renewal of the visa and that Wanchalearm’s name was not on the resident list at Mekong Gardens, where he lived.
The South China Morning Post reported in 2019 that former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra crossed the border between the two countries to flee prosecution against her at home and allegedly used a Cambodian passport to flee – a claim vehemently denied by Cambodia.
Other evidence presented to Thai officials includes a series of internal communications between Thai law enforcement agencies, detailing their hunt for Wanchalearm over his role in setting up a Facebook page, called “Ku Tong Dai 100 Lan Jak Thaksin Nae Nae”, which posted political satire.
A letter, dated August 2018, was also submitted. The letter notifies the Supreme Court of Thailand that the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division recommended pressing charges and had issued an arrest warrant against Wanchalearm for “disinformation” harming the “national security, stability, and economy”.
“[T]he accused is based and residing in Cambodia,” reads a clause in the 2018 Thai police’s letter in reference to Wanchalearm.
Wanchalearm fled the Thai junta after the 2014 coup and is wanted for alleged online crimes, according to Human Rights Watch. Thai media reports said he had also been charged for purportedly violating Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté provision.