A Lao migrant who had been living in Thailand lost contact with his friends and relatives after visiting family in Laos last month, leading his contacts to suspect that Lao authorities might have abducted him over his involvement in a pro-democracy protest at the Lao embassy in Bangkok.
Phetphouthon Philachane, 44, entered Vientiane on November 13 and made contact with a close friend the next day through Facebook Messenger. But his friend says the chat session was the last anyone heard from Phetphouthon.
“I am pretty sure that he’s been locked up by the police, because I heard a member of his family hinting that they do not want to get involved in his affairs,” Phetphouthon’s friend told RFA’s Lao Service Monday.
“Our last contact was on November 14 while I was visiting Thailand’s Nongkai province and he told me to leave for Bangkok,” said the source. Nongkai is the Thai province adjacent to Laos’ Vientiane province.
According to the source, Phetphouthon was staying with relatives in Vientiane at the time of their chat session. He had planned to visit his father in Khammuan province, after which he would return to work in Thailand.
“I think he will not come back, because he would already have contacted his friends if there was nothing wrong. Maybe he was kidnapped like Od Sayavong,” said the source.
Od, a 34-year-old Lao democracy advocate, went missing in Thailand in August, and Thai police say they are still investigating, raising concerns among human rights organizations monitoring his case.
Phetphouthon’s friends say they used to remind him never to go back to Laos, because he was part of a pro-human rights and democracy demonstration in front of the Lao Embassy in Bangkok, and is thus blacklisted. They also said he was a part of several other demonstrations critical of Laos’ government.
“We didn’t want him to go to Laos, but he insisted,” said a second friend to RFA.
An officer at the border checkpoint between Laos and Thailand declined to comment on Phetphouthon’s situation.
RFA attempted to contact police in Vientiane for more details, but was not successful.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Eugene Whong.