Police says bodies from river were missing activists

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In this photo dated Thursday, Dec, 27, 2018, Thai rescuers cover a body on the shore of the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom province northeast of Bangkok, Thailand. DNA tests show that two bodies found washed up on the shore of Thailand’s Mekong River are the corpses of anti-government activists, police said Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in what are feared to be political killings. The two, known by the pseudonyms Puchana and Kasalong, were among three exiled activists who disappeared in December from homes in Laos, where they took shelter after fleeing Thailand. (AP Photo)

Bangkok (AP) — DNA tests show that two bodies found washed up on the shore of the Mekong River in Thailand’s northeast are the corpses of political activists, police said Tuesday.

The two, known by the pseudonyms Puchana and Kasalong, were among three exiled activists who disappeared in December from homes in Laos, where they took shelter after fleeing Thailand. There is a group of Thai exiles in Laos associated with the Red Shirt movement that staged aggressive street protests in Bangkok in 2010.

Several members of a hard-core faction advocating that Thailand becomes a republic are wanted on charges of lese majeste, a serious crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison per offense.

Nakhon Phanom provincial police chief, Pol. Maj. Gen. Thanachart Rodklongton, said forensics lab results matched the bodies’ DNA to samples from family members.

The bodies were found on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 wrapped in brown sacks along with blocks of cement, presumably to weigh them down.

The real names of the two have not been made public, but the third person with whom they worked who also went missing is a well-known Red Shirt leader and long-time dissident, Surachai Danwattananusorn, better known as Surachai sae Dan. His fate is unknown. Now in his seventies, he has spent many years in prison on lese majeste and other charges since the 1970s, when he was a communist guerrilla in southern Thailand.

The three had not been seen by friends in Laos since the middle of December.

Since 2016, at least two other Thai dissidents in Laos have disappeared under suspicious circumstances.