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A group of 85 persons have been in detention in Bangkok since December 14, 2010 despite the fact that they are already registered as asylum seekers with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok. Of the 85 persons, 17 of them have reportedly had their applications accepted and have been granted refugee status. The group includes 38 women and girls, among whom there is at least one pregnant woman. It also includes at least 38 children, including 26 aged under 10 years. There is also a number of babies and elderly one of whom is 60 and is suffering high blood pressure and another person with a heart condition.

A list compiled of the detainees is available here: Please see the details in the AHRC Urgent Appeal.  The group belongs to the Ahmadiya community who fled from Pakistan to take shelter in Bangkok, Thailand, after undergoing continuous persecution and killings, particularly after the attacks of Muslim extremists on their two Mosques in May 2010 in which more than 100 persons were killed. They left their country to register as refugees with the UNHCR and seek asylum.

Sadly instead of the compassion and humanitarian assistance they urgently need they have instead suffered serious violations of their human rights. This may be seen in the treatment of those in the detention centre. The hygiene and sanitation conditions are appalling. Medical and nutrition facilities are almost non-existent. The detainees are being fed by the local Thai community and the sick children have little medical care. Women have been assaulted and the one who was pregnant was taken to hospital for delivery in handcuffs and heavy chains and kept in such restraint throughout her delivery. On return to the detention centre she was kept in chains and locked up in a toilet for a whole night.

They were all genuine refugees as defined in the UNHCR 1951 convention. They also had the right to flee to another country under article 14 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. On registration they were all issued with a protection certificate as a proof of identity for the Thai Government to allow them to remain in the country until their asylum application was determined. However, in total disregard of the UNHCR convention and the international Code of Conduct, the Thai Police raided the lodgings of the refugees and arrested them, heavily fining them for overstaying in the country. Following this they were placed in a detention centre indefinitely.

It is extremely perturbing that the Thai government took this action against the members of a law abiding peaceful community who had fled from Pakistan where they were constantly being prosecuted under the blasphemy laws, the mandatory punishment for which is death.

All those arrested possessed protection certificates issued by the UNHCR which were supposed to be honoured by the Thai Government, even if it is not a signatory to the UNHCR 1951 convention. It is a situation that needs to be taken up seriously with the Thai government by the world community. How can the Thai Government, as a full member of the UN and the current president of the UNHRC, fail to cooperate with, support and honour the work of a UN organisation it has allowed to operate from its country.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is appalled by this situation urges the chairperson of United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Swedish Parliament and the European Union to raise the issue with the Government of Thailand and take appropriate action for the immediate release and care of the detainees in Bangkok.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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