House committee slams Thai police for arresting, defrocking Cambodian monk

Photo from Radio Free Asia

Thailand’s House committee, tasked with scrutinising a bill against torture and enforced disappearances, has cried foul over Tuesday night’s arrest and defrocking of a monk by Thai immigration police, prior to his deportation back to Cambodia.

The committee’s spokesperson, who is also deputy spokesperson of the Democrat party, Siripa Intavichein, told the media at the parliament today (Thursday) that the committee received a complaint from on behalf of the Cambodian monk about his arrest and the fact that he has been granted refugee status, adding that she has received confirmation from both the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) office in Thailand and Human Rights Watch of the monk’s situation.

Siripa further said that the Swiss embassy in Bangkok has issued an emergency visa for the monk to seek refuge in Switzerland, to avoid being deported back to Cambodia, where he faces an uncertain but possibly dangerous future.

She urged the Thai government to cross-check the list of Cambodian people to be deported against the UNHCR’s list of people granted refugee status, to ensure that formal refugees are not forcibly expatriated.

Three Cambodians were deported back to Cambodia last month amid protests by human rights groups, a move the UNHCR said it was “dismayed” by.

Meanwhile, Charles Santiago, chairman of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and a Malaysian MP, called the arrest and reported defrocking of the Venerable Bor Bet an “outrage”.

“This is the fourth case of a refugee being deported from Thailand to Cambodia in the past three weeks,” he said, as he urged the Thai government to put an end to these acts immediately.

While Thailand is not a party to the Refugee Convention, as a state party to the Convention Against Torture, it is obligated to the principle of non-refoulement, which forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, said Santiago.

Deporting Bor Bet is a serious human rights violation and sending him back to Cambodia puts him at risk of persecution and torture, simply for expressing his opinion, he added.

The Thai authorities do not generally recognise the refugee status and refugees are often treated as illegal immigrants. Despite repeated calls for respect of non-refoulement, several have been deported back where they had fled from.

The monk is currently detained in Bangkok’s Immigration Bureau.



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