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UN experts have raised concerns about Vietnam's request to Thailand to extradite Y Quynh Bdap, a Montagnard religious freedom activist and refugee, who is being held in a detention facility in Bangkok, awaiting his extradition hearing next month. They called on the Thai authorities to refuse his extradition to Vietnam, where he is likely to face torture and ill-treatment, and to recognise in domestic law the refugee status of Montagnard people, who are indigenous peoples and religious minorities in Vietnam and often face discrimiation and other ill-treatment.

Y Quynh Bdap (Photo from Human Rights Watch)

Independent experts* today (4 July) expressed grave concern about Vietnam’s request to Thailand to extradite refugee and human rights defender Y Quynh Bdap, who co-founded Montagnards Stand for Justice, an organisation that advocates for indigenous rights in Vietnam.

“We urge Thailand to refuse his extradition and any other requests to forcibly repatriate Montagnards seeking protection in the country,” the experts said.

Y Quynh Bdap has been living in Thailand since 2018, where he is recognised as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and is awaiting resettlement to a third country.

He was convicted in absentia of terrorist offences relating to an alleged attack in Dak Lak province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands in June 2023. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a “mobile court” trial of 100 defendants that did not meet fair trial guarantees under international law. Y Quynh Bdap is being held in a detention facility in Bangkok, awaiting his extradition hearing next month.

The experts called on Thai authorities to respect the obligation of non-refoulement under international human rights law, which prohibits returning a person to a country where they would face a risk of persecution or torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, enforced disappearance and other irreparable harm such as arbitrary deprivation of life or denial of justice.

“We believe that, if extradited, Y Quynh Bdap would be at risk of enforced disappearance and torture or other ill-treatment or punishment, in violation of non-refoulement,” the experts said.

They welcomed the Thai Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances Act, which entered into force on 22 February 2023. The law prohibits Thai authorities from “expelling, deporting or extraditing a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or enforced disappearance.” The experts also welcomed Thailand’s ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 14 May 2024, which prohibits return to a risk of enforced disappearance.

Montagnard Indigenous peoples and religious minorities in Vietnam have been victims of discrimination and other ill-treatment, including forced renunciation of non-recognised religious denominations and conversion to official churches, the criminalisation of religious leaders and the misuse of terrorism offences. The NGO Montagnards Stand for Justice has been abusively listed as a terrorist organisation. The experts have also raised concerns about the death and alleged prior torture in custody of one Montagnard in March 2024.

Given the risks Montagnards face in Vietnam, many have sought protection in Thailand. The experts urged Thailand to recognise their refugee status in domestic law, particularly under the National Screening Mechanism, regularise their residency status, and protect them against transnational repression by foreign authorities.

The experts have communicated their concerns to the Governments of Vietnam and Thailand on this issue. Since several Montagnards are awaiting resettlement or have an asylum case pending in a third country, the experts strongly encourage these countries to process applications as expeditiously as possible.


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