Bangkok, February 6, 2019–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Thai authorities to investigate the disappearance of Vietnamese blogger Truong Duy Nhat, publicly report on that investigation’s findings, and take all measures to ensure that the journalist has not been illegally abducted or detained.
Nhat, a blogger with the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA), has been missing in Thailand since January 26, one day after applying for refugee status in Bangkok, according to news reports. He was last in contact with RFA editors on January 24, the broadcaster reported. Details of his refugee status application have not been made public, but the blogger was previously imprisoned in Vietnam for his political writings, according to RFA.
“CPJ is gravely concerned by reports that Vietnamese blogger Truong Duy Nhat has gone missing while seeking refugee status in Thailand,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on Thai authorities to leave no stone unturned in investigating his disappearance and to take every possible measure to ensure his safety and well-being.”
According to associates of Nhat’s who were quoted by RFA and who the broadcaster said requested anonymity out of fear for their safety, the journalist went missing while he was visiting the Future Park shopping mall on the outskirts of Bangkok. One source said he was “arrested” while at an ice cream shop in the mall.
Police Colonel Tatpong Sarawanangkoon, a Thai official in charge of the kingdom’s Immigration Detention Center, was quoted in the RFA report as saying that Nhat was not among the center’s detainees.
CPJ called the Immigration Detention Center but could not reach Tatpong for comment.
Nhat writes a blog column for RFA’s Vietnamese language service. His most recent commentary focused on the growing opposition movement in Venezuela and prospects for change in Vietnam.
Nhat was previously arrested in Vietnam in 2013 and served two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interest of the state,” for his critical blogging on the Communist Party’s leadership, as CPJ covered at the time.
Thailand was previously seen as a regional safe haven for journalists and dissidents, but the situation has deteriorated under nearly five years of military rule, with reported cases of dissidents being abducted by foreign agents or arrested and deported by Thai authorities to their home countries where they faced harsh reprisal.