BANGKOK – The United Nations has slammed Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha‘s deportation of two Chinese refugees to China, warning they were at risk of “grave human rights violations.”
“We have expressed our concern to the government of Thailand about their deportation,” she said, pointing out that the move came just months after the country was criticized for deporting 109 ethnic Uighurs to China.
“Thailand’s forced return of these two rights activists into harm’s way in China after being explicitly told that they were refugees is cruel as well as unlawful.”
These actions blatantly contradict the pledge to uphold rights that the prime minister made before the UN General Assembly. It’s deeply alarming, if not surprising, that the junta’s deference to abusive neighbors takes priority over the rule of law.”
Returning the two refugees to China – where they are at risk of persecution, arbitrary detention, and possibly torture – constitutes refoulement, which is prohibited under customary international law and violates Thailand’s obligations under article 3 of the Convention against Torture. Individuals who are known to have been involved in issues considered politically sensitive or from certain ethnic or religious groups who have been forcibly returned to China have faced such mistreatment.
Thailand should also call on China to reveal the two men’s whereabouts, immediately release them, and permit them to travel abroad to reunite with their families, who have resettled in a third country.
“It seems clear that the forced return of these two activists was a deliberate, premediated rights violation by the Thai junta at China’s behest,” Richardson said. “Prime Minister Prayut should recognize that Thailand is moving toward the sort of pariah status reserved for the most rights-abusing countries, and right these wrongs.”
Thailand’s generals have cultivated warmer ties with China since seizing power in a 2014 coup. The coup was widely condemned by Western nations, which downgraded diplomatic ties, but the ruling junta claimed to have support from China.