Following reports that Vietnamese authorities may have transferred three Thai citizens – Chucheep Chiwasut, Siam Theerawut and Kritsana Tupthai – to Thailand, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Global Operations, Minar Pimple, said:
“We call on Thai authorities to acknowledge whether they are in military or police custody and establish their whereabouts. If they are in state custody, we urge authorities to ensure that the three men are held in an official place of detention and have immediate access to independent lawyers, doctors and family members.
“We also call on authorities to either charge them with a recognizable criminal offence in line with international standards or release them from custody, and not penalise them for their exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”
Chucheep Chiwasut is a radio disc-jockey and political activist, who regularly broadcast political commentary to Thailand from exile. Reports do not indicate whether they were transferred to Thai authorities from Viet Nam through a formal deportation or extradition procedure.
Chiwasut has long outstanding charges of lèse-majesté filed against him under Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code – it is believed that both Siam Theerawut and Kritsana Tupthai also have criminal complaints against them under Article 112. In September 2018, Prawit Wongsuwan, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister, told the media that Chiwasut headed a secessionist movement. The Thai authorities at the same time arrested individuals with t-shirts associated with the “Organisation for Thai Federation”—the movement they alleged that Chiwasut leads—as well as members of Chiwasut’s immediate family in Thailand. Thai authorities have made long-standing requests to neighbouring states for the extradition of individuals charged with Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code, governing lèse-majesté, including Chucheep Chiwasut.
Amnesty International has particular concerns for the safety of Thai exiles whose extradition has been sought by the Thai authorities. Unknown individuals have abducted five Thai political opposition activists in exile in Laos – including people who made broadcasts while in exile, and who faced lèse-majesté or weapons charges – who have subsequently disappeared or been killed. They include individuals whose extradition the Thai authorities had repeatedly requested, including on the alleged basis that their broadcasts into Thailand from Laos were a threat to national security.