Deportation of Thai refugees triggers condemnation and contempt | Refugee News

This month, Thailand deported three opposition activists who were identified as refugees back to Cambodia. Despite a surge in violence against political dissidents, another activist was hacked to death in Phnom Penh on Sunday.

Thailand expelled Veourn Veasna and Voeung Samnang on November 9th and Lanh Thavry on November 20th.All three are members of the banned opposition Cambodian National Salvation Party (CNRP), which is Disbanded by the Supreme Court in 2017 It performed strongly in the local commune elections that year.

At that time, activists and democracies generally condemned the dissolution, which they believed was a politically motivated move to prevent the party from threatening Prime Minister Hun Sen’s decades-long power. The Cambodian People’s Party led by Hun Sen had almost no opposition in the 2018 national election. Occupy all 125 seats in Parliament.

Thavry is one of the 489 CNRP candidates elected as the commune president in 2017, while Samnang is the deputy commune president and Veasna is the CNRP online broadcaster. According to reports, Thavry was accused of trying to overthrow the government for supporting CNRP co-founder Sam Rainsy’s attempt to return from exile, and Veasna was accused of inciting after posting a poem on Facebook calling Hun Sen a traitor. It is unclear what allegations Samnang faces. According to BenarNews, the fourth CNRP member Mich Heang was arrested in Thailand on Sunday. He is still in a detention center in Bangkok and may also be deported.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) condemned the two deportations, saying that it had notified Thailand that all three of them had refugee status and warned them that they “face a serious risk of persecution” in Cambodia.

The agency said in a statement on Tuesday: “This action violates the principle of non-refoulement, which requires countries-including Thailand-not to deport or return people to territories where their lives or freedoms would be threatened. .” Seeking Thailand’s “urgent clarification” on this matter.

Hun Sen fought various criticisms, and even a 16-year-old boy with autism was sentenced to jail for posting comments critical of the government on Facebook. Kak Sovannchhay (left) was released earlier this month [Heng Sinith/AP Photo]

Against the backdrop of increasing violence against opposition activists in Cambodia, the number of deportations has increased alarmingly.

On Sunday, CNRP activist Sin Khon was hacked to death by an unknown swordsman near Wat Chas, where he was a disciple of a monk. The monk told the local VOD media that Khon had been attacked in May and received death threats. In April, the 16-year-old son of a CNRP official was hit in the head by a brick.

Cambodian police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun denied that Phnom Penh had requested their extradition and told Reuters that all three were deported for violating Thai immigration laws and were arrested when they arrived in Cambodia because they happened to have a valid arrest warrant. .

Lee Morgenbesser, a senior lecturer and authoritarian expert at Griffith University in Australia, said that the cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia “expanded the de facto territory of authoritarian regimes.”He said that Cambodia has long been involved in these types of arrangements, such as through Extradition of Uyghurs to China And mountain people to Vietnam.

“Authoritarian cooperation may still be in its infancy, but it is becoming more and more common,” he said.Deportation also affects dissidents in Myanmar, many of whom Fled to Thailand Since the coup in February, the country has fallen back into a military dictatorship after 10 years of democratic reforms.

Morgenbesser warned that dissidents would be “an obvious target,” but said the Myanmar military needs to provide Thailand with something in return.

Strengthen surveillance

CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua told Al Jazeera that she was “anxious and sad about the insecurity of the Thai people”.

She said the party plans to write a letter requesting a meeting with the Thai ambassador to France or the United States to discuss the matter. Sochua is dual citizenship and also holds American citizenship, while party leader Sam Rainsy holds French citizenship.Thailand also cooperated with Cambodia to prevent them from returning from exile in 2019. The immigration office in Bangkok refused Sochua’s entry. Refuse to let Rainsy Board a Thai Airways flight from France.

“If Thailand agrees to cooperate with Hun Sen, there is nothing it can do,” Sochua admitted, but she called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take action, warning that otherwise it would become “ASEAN’s failure to protect humanity.” right”.

Although Morgenbesser agrees that ASEAN “obviously has a role to play” to solve this problem, he added that the EU is extremely unlikely to really intervene, especially when Cambodia has just taken over as its presidency in 2022.

Opposition leaders in exile in Cambodia urged ASEAN to take measures to protect dissidents, but the country is now chair of the 10-member group [File: Handout via Reuters]

Human Rights Watch also bluntly condemned the deportation, and pointed out in a statement that in recent months, Cambodian refugees hiding in Bangkok have reported that unidentified people they believe are Cambodian officials have been escalating surveillance and threats. .

“Thailand’s behavior in sending these three Cambodian refugees back to dangerous places is heinous and unacceptable, and should be condemned globally,” Phil Robertson, the organization’s deputy director of Asia, told Al Jazeera. “The EU countries meeting at the upcoming Asia-Europe Meeting should appeal to Cambodia and Thailand for this serious violation of refugee protection and rights, and demand that these forced deportations stop.”

The Asia-Europe Meeting, officially called the Asia-Europe Meeting, will be held on Thursday and Friday, with Cambodia as the host.

Seng Mengbunrong, a CNRP youth activist who has worked in Thailand for seven months, said he and other CNRP members felt “not too safe” due to the recent deportation.

“We don’t know when the Thai police [will] Arrest us back to Cambodia and we will go to jail,” he said, accusing the Thai authorities of ignoring human rights and refugee rights.

But Mengbunrong still provoked, saying that despite the threats, the National Salvation Party activists in Thailand “will not remain silent” and will continue to “fight for the restoration of Cambodia’s democracy.”

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