Payback time

3 02 2022

Thailand’s military-backed regime has teamed up with authoritarians in neighboring countries for “security” operations. These have seen black ops that resulted in the disappearance, torture and/or murder of several anti-monarchy activists in Cambodia and Laos.

Such operations have a quid pro quo. Thailand has already returned several Cambodian activists for imprisonment by the Hun Sen regime. And now Laos is enjoying Thailand’s payback.

Khaosod recently reported that the  International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) had “expressed concerns about the safety of a Laotian asylum seeker who was arrested in Bangkok…”. It stated that “Keomanivong Khoukham, a member of pro-democracy Free Lao group, was apprehended despite the fact that he holds a UNHCR card…”.

FIDH reminded the world that “[t]his is not the first time they do it…. When fellow activist Od Sayavong disappeared in August 2019, the Thai police spokesman said he didn’t know about it, even though a missing person report had been filed at a local police station in Bangkok days earlier.”

That sounds like the story of Wanchalerm Satsaksit’s enforced disappearance in Cambodia. His case remains unresolved and the silence from both governments is deafening.

Where is Wanchalearm? Clipped from Prachatai

At least Thailand’s police “acknowledged the arrest, which was made on Saturday [29 January]…”. They claim he was arrested for overstaying his visa. They also say he was not carrying a UNHCR card, although media outlets produced numerous images of it.

Khaosod explains:

Since Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, asylum seekers are considered as illegal immigrants by the Thai authorities. They are subjected to arrests and deportation back to the countries they tried to escape.

Convenient.

Thai Newsroom followed up and cites Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch, who said the Lao activist “faces punishment should he return to Laos.”

Sunai also mentioned that the Thai government has deported refugees many times. The latest was the deportation of a Cambodian refugee late November with this leading to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issuing a statement expressing disappointment for again doing so.

UNHCR has several times requested/urged the Thia authorities “to refrain from deporting recognized refugees and to abide by its international obligations, particularly the principle of non-refoulement.”


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