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Thailand warned against targeting foreign refugees and dissidents – JURIST

Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned Thailand against unlawful targeting of dissidents and migrants from neighbouring countries in a new report on Thursday.

The report condemns Thai authorities for assisting neighbouring countries in detaining dissidents and refugees and engaging in “Transnational Repression”. According to the report, the country engaged in unlawful acts against refugees, dissidents and asylum seekers such as surveillance, violence, abductions, enforced disappearances, and forced returns. At the same time, foreign countries exercised similar actions against Thai dissidents, therefore engaging in what HRW calls a “swap mart”.

The report comes amid a dire situation in Thailand and neighbouring countries, such as Cambodia, where an increase in repression against dissidents has alarmed human rights organisations. Thai authorities arrested three human rights activists in March who fled to Thailand to avoid political persecution in Cambodia, with several human rights groups having criticized the Thai government for detaining the activists. The Thai government denied the claims and asserted that the activists were arrested because they violated Thai laws. Thailand announced a few days later it will not deport the individuals to Cambodia.

Asia director at HRW Elaine Pearson condemned the Thai government stating:

Thai authorities have increasing engaged in a “swap mart” with neighboring governments to unlawfully exchange each other’s dissidents, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin should break with this practice and prosecute Thai officials wrongfully collaborating with foreign governments acting on Thai soil. Prime Minister Srettha should act to restore Thailand’s deserved reputation as a country that is a safe haven for dissidents from abroad.

Thailand used to be considered by foreign nationals from neighbouring countries as a refuge from war and political repression, but this has changed in recent years as the Thai government started detaining and expelling dissidents thus engaging in what HRW calls Transnational Repression. Governments engage in such acts to “silence or deter dissent by committing human rights abuses against their own nationals or former nationals”.

HRW further reported violations of Thailand’s national law against torture and enforced disappearances as well as international law such as the principle of non-refoulement, customary international law and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

HRW urged the Thai government to suppress such repressive acts and to investigate authorities neighbouring countries involved in unlawful acts against migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

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