Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia strongly condemn the decision by the Thai authorities to hand-over three members of Myanmar opposition forces into the hands of junta allies, where they are likely to be tortured, or worse. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) calls on the Thai government and the international community to ensure that such an incident does not happen again.
“For far too long, the Thai authorities have been forcing asylum seekers and refugees back to Myanmar where they are at risk of persecution. This is a clear violation of international human rights law, norms and principles,” APHR Chair and member of the Indonesian House of Representatives, Mercy Barends, said today.
According to information APHR received from local civil society organizations, on 1 April, three members of a Myanmar opposition group crossed into Thailand to seek medical treatment. On their way to Mae Sot, the three men were stopped at a checkpoint and taken into custody by Thai immigration. Then, on the morning of April 4, the Thai authorities handed them over to the Myanmar junta -allied Border Guard Force (BGF), despite efforts from opposition groups to negotiate a release. Witnesses say that BGF troops shot at the men after the handover. According to media reports, at least one of the men was killed. The fates of the other two remain unclear.
Despite sharing an extensive border of more than 2,400 kilometers with Myanmar, the Thai government has not been welcoming to refugees who seek to escape the brutal violence of the Myanmar military. Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Thailand for sending back those who cross the border. Asylum seekers from Myanmar in Thailand also face a precarious situation, where they lack legal protection and risk being deported at any time.
Earlier this year, the Thai government officially adopted the UN Convention Against Torture, which states that “no government organizations or public officials shall expel, deport, or extradite a person to another country where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, or enforced disappearance.” Releasing these three men into the hands of the Myanmar junta, which has repeatedly arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and at times even extrajudicially executed dissidents, is clearly in violation of this convention.
“We urge the Thai government to allow those fleeing conflict in Myanmar to enter Thailand safely and to prioritize their protection. Thai authorities must immediately halt the deportation of citizens from Myanmar who face immense risks to their physical well-being in the hands of the junta,” said Barends.
“In light of the upcoming Thai elections, we also urge all Thai political parties and candidates to address human rights concerns on their platforms. Lastly, we call on ASEAN, ASEAN member states, and the international community to put pressure on Thailand to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and that their rights are respected and upheld. No person who faces persecution in the country they are fleeing should be detained and forcibly returned.”