A group of parliamentarians in Southeast Asia decried the arrest of a Cambodian activist monk in Thailand this week, calling it “an outrage.”
In a statement, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) called for the immediate release of Ven. Bor Bet, a Buddhist monk from Cambodia and a refugee in Thailand.
“While Thailand is not a party to the Refugee Convention, it is obligated to the principle of non-refoulement as a state party to the Convention Against Torture,” said Charles Santiago, APHR chairman and Malaysian member of parliament.
He said deporting Ven. Bor Bet “is a serious human rights violation, and sending him back to Cambodia puts him and risk of persecution and torture, simply for expressing his opinion.”
“The fact that he is also a prominent activist monk and reportedly had to endure the indignity of defrocking by Thai police only makes his treatment by authorities all the more shocking,” said Santiago.
Ven. Bor Bet is the fourth refugee to be deported from Thailand to Cambodia in the past three weeks.
“The Thai government must immediately put an end to this series of arrests and deportation of individuals seeking protection inside its borders,” said Santiago in a statement on December2.
He said Thailand is still bound to respect the principle of non-refoulement, “especially in a case such as this where the individual is considered a human rights defender and has received refugee status by the UN Refugee Agency.”
Authorities near the Thai capital Bangkok have arrested and defrocked Ven. Bor Bet, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s authoritarian government, on December 1.
The monk had taken refuge in Thailand in November 2020 to avoid arrest for his participation in protests in Phnom Penh demanding the release of a popular labor union leader arrested in a sweeping crackdown on the opposition and civil society.
Bor Bet’s apprehension Wednesday in Samut Prakan province, south of Bangkok, follows Thailand’s arrest and quick deportation to Cambodia of four other CNRP-affiliated activists in a crackdown that drew condemnation from rights groups and a statement of concern from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
A Thai government spokesman last week defended the deportations, calling them consistent with Thailand’s foreign policy. – with a report from Radio Free Asia