UNHCR ‘dismayed’ by Thailand’s deportation of third Cambodian refugee this month
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on Tuesday issued a statement deploring Thailand’s deportation of a Cambodian refugee, which occurred only ten days after the authorities deported two other Cambodian refugees.
“This action contravenes the principle of non-refoulement, which obliges States – including Thailand – not to expel or return people to a territory where their life or freedom would be threatened,” reads the statement.
Thailand is not a party in the 1951 Refugee Convention and still does not recognise the refugee status, resulting in refugees being treated as illegal immigrants by the authorities and detained in immigration detention centres (IDCs) and being sent back to the countries they were fleeing from.
According to the UNHCR, the agency immediately notified the authorities of the Cambodian national’s refugee status once the refugee was arrested on November 19th and urged the Government not to return the individual to Cambodia over serious concerns for the safety of the refugee, who was detained overnight and deported to Cambodia.
“We are extremely alarmed by this trend of forcibly returning refugees to Cambodia, where they face a serious risk of persecution. Given recent developments, we are very concerned about the safety of UNHCR recognised Cambodian refugees in Thailand,” said Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
“We urge the Royal Thai Government to refrain from deporting recognized refugees and to abide by its international obligations, particularly the principle of non-refoulement,” she added.
Previously, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a similar statement on the forced return of the two Cambodian refugees on November 9th, saying this would put them at risk of unfair trials in Cambodia.
On November 8th, Thai police arrested a Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) online TV broadcaster, and a former CNRP commune official. They were also deported the following day.
“Thailand’s forcible return of these two refugees shows a blatant disregard for fundamental refugee protection principles,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrants director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai government’s actions make it complicit in the Cambodian government’s persecution of its political opponents, which appears to extend beyond Cambodia’s borders.”
According to HRW, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has pursued a crackdown on former CNRP members since the Cambodian Supreme Court dissolved the party in 2017.
Earlier in November, at Thailand’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycle, a human rights review for each UN member country, the issue of the treatment of refugees including their detention has been raised, including the continued detention of underage refugees.