[Statement] Thailand: Release Cambodian activists arrested for planning a protest in Bangkok
6 February 2024 11:51 am
(Bangkok, 5 February 2024) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is deeply concerned over the arrest of three Cambodian activists–alongside their families –in Thailand.
On 2 February 2024, Lem Sokha, Phan Phana, and Kung Raiya were arrested for planning to organise a protest on 7 February which coincided with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet’s official visit to Thailand for discussions on trade and border-related matters.
The three had fled to Thailand to escape political persecution and had been granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Lem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodian Refugee Committee, has been in Thailand since 2017. Phan Phana, a member of the Global Cambodia Youth Network, sought refuge in Thailand in 2022. Kung Raiya, a former member of Cambodia’s opposition Candlelight Party and ruling government Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), fled to Thailand in July 2023.
Before having his phone confiscated, Phan Phana expressed concerns over the possibility of being deported to Cambodia. He feared the involvement of the CPP in his arrest, since the police were seeking information about other activists.
Kung Raiya believes that the Thai police collaborated with the Cambodian Government to apprehend him due to his criticisms against the prime minister. He suspected that he may have been located through phone tapping or online tracking.
Call to action
The arrests of the three is a manifestation of transnational repression, illustrating the Cambodian Government’s attempt to exercise influence beyond its borders. Although Thailand is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, deporation would contravene international obligations of non-refoulement and the Thai Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act enacted in February 2023. Deportation should not be used as a threat against refugees and those who are persecuted in their home countries.
Section 13 of Thailand’s new Anti-Torture Act 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.’
FORUM-ASIA urges the Thai Government to immediately release the Cambodian activists and their families. Likewise, the government must ensure their physical safety and mental well-being. The three should not be deported.
FORUM-ASIA is in solidarity with all voices of dissent who showed remarkable courage and persistence in advocating for more democratic societies.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a network of 85 member organisations across 23 countries, mainly in Asia. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The FORUM-ASIA Secretariat is based in Bangkok, with offices in Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. www.forum-asia.org
For media inquiries, please contact:
- Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA, [email protected]