BANGKOK: Protests flared in Bangkok on Monday against the suspected kidnapping of a Thai activist in Cambodia which has reignited protests against Thailands military-royalist elite, with some online questioning a law banning criticism of the monarchy.

Small student protests over the banning of a youth-oriented opposition party had bubbled up before the COVID-19 pandemic, but were stopped by government restrictions during the health crisis.



Now anger is building again around Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 37, a previously little-known activist who fled Thailand following a 2014 coup.

Wanchalearm was allegedly abducted by unknown gunmen on Thursday in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, where he had lived to escape criminal charges for criticising the former Thai military government.

Dozens of protesters outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok demanded an investigation into the disappearance and accused the Thai state of orchestrating his kidnapping, which Thailand's police and government have denied.

"I want the Thai government to protect people who are living abroad whether they are political exiles or not," said protester Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree.



Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters he had no information on the case but that Thailand would discuss it with Cambodian authorities.

"This case is their matter," he said.

Cambodia's government and police were not available for comment. They had previously denied knowledge of the incident.

At the weekend, posters labelled "Missing" appeared around Bangkok featuring photos of Wanchalearm and other critics of military governments who have disappeared in past decades.

The posters were the work of the Spring Movement, a small group of students at Bangkok's elite Chulalongkorn University, group member Pun Thongsai told Reuters.

"After Wanchalearm disappeared, we wanted to do something beyond online," said Pun, 26, a mathematics graduate. "We do not know who directly ordered the abduction, but we can see the ruling elite of this country does not care about this issue.”

In recent years, at least eight Thai activists who fled after a 2014 military coup have disappeared from Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, with the bodies of two of them later found floating in the Mekong River.

Wanchalearm's elder sister Sitanun Satsaksit said he was speaking to her on his mobile phone on Thursday.

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