Political exile Surachai officially declared missing five years after disappearance

Cover Photo: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

Five years after he disappeared, political exile Surachai Danwattananusorn has been declared a missing person.

The Nakhon Si Thammarat Provincial Court handed down its judgement on Monday, declaring Surachai, also known as Surachai Sae Dan, as a missing person at the request of his wife, Pranee Danwattananusorn.  He disappeared five years ago while living in exile in Laos, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Pranee filed a petition with the court on December 2023, requesting that Surachai be declared a missing person as Surachai disappeared and has not been seen since 2018.

The petition stated that her husband travelled to Lao PDR to seek political asylum on the same day that the former PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha declared martial law. On 22 May 2014, he was summoned to appear before the National Council for Peace and Order(NCPO).  When he failed to comply, the Bangkok Military Court issued an arrest warrant for violating the order.

While in exile, Surachai lived with Chatchan Bupphawan, or Phuchana, and Kraidet Luelerd, or Kasalong who were political refugees and his friends. The last time Surachai and his followers could be reached was 12 December 2018, a day before Thailand’s junta leader made an unofficial visit to Lao PDR. Since then, no one had contact with Surachai and his friends.

Two mutilated bodies were later found washed up on the banks of the Mekong River near Nakhon Phanom. The bodies were identified as Phuchana and Kasalong. Surachai disappeared with an unknown fate. Pranee subsequently filed complaints with several organisations in the hopes of tracking down her husband.  She has not heard anything.

Surachai, an outspoken political activist, was a former communist insurgent in the 1970s. He was well-known for his anti-monarchist views, which resulted in his arrest under the royal defamation law in 2011.  He was sentenced to prison and received a royal pardon in 2013. He fled Thailand after the 2014 coup.

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