When members of the exiled Thai protest band Faiyen learned that the concrete-stuffed bodies of two Thai activists who had disappeared from Laos had been found in the Mekong River, they grew worried about their own fates.
A third dissident remained missing. And then in February, three more Laos-based activists who were critics of Thailand’s ruling junta vanished, last heard from in Vietnam.
The disappearances have struck fear into the band, whose music and posts online call for revolt against the military and openly criticize the country’s monarchy, Thailand’s most sacred institution, which is illegal to insult.
They and dozens of other activists who fled after a 2014 army coup think the junta is stepping up efforts to punish them, according to five dissidents who spoke to Reuters.
The wave of disappearances began around the time that Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha visited Laos in December, activists say.
“Since December, we have heard warnings from friends in Thailand that there would be teams sent from Thailand to get to us. Some said that 700 officials are involved in this kind of operation to track all the exiles,” Worravut “Tito” Thueakchaiyaphum, a Faiyen member, told Reuters.
Worravut, 30, said friendly officials in Laos had urged exiles to go into hiding. They did, but now they say nowhere in Laos is safe. He added that he had seen lists produced by the Thai government of wanted people that was provided to neighboring nations.
“An official source showed us a secret official document listing the names of people in exile in Laos that Thai authorities want,” he said, without going into any more detail. Reuters has not viewed the document.
“They are coming for sure. They’ll capture us, kidnap us, kill us, for sure,” Trairong “Khunthong” Sinseubpol, a 54-year-old singer for Faiyen, said in a recent video message on YouTube.
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