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UN Condemns Thailand’s Deportation of Cambodian Activists

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The United Nations refugee agency has condemned Thailand’s deportation of three Cambodian political activists back home. Referring to it as a “trend” of repatriating Cambodian refugees across the border into countries where they face persecution.

The Thai expulsion of three activists contravened the rights of refugees under humanitarian law, the UN Refugee Agency said on Monday.

“We are extremely alarmed by this trend of forcing refugees back to Cambodia, where they face a serious risk of persecution,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs was quoted as saying in the statement.

A United Nations announcement followed the deportation of the third Cambodian activist from Thailand on Saturday, even though the agency had notified Thai authorities of her refugee status. The activist’s identity was not immediately disclosed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power in Cambodia for 36 years and has a history of legal harassment of critics.

Voeun Veasna and Voeung Samnang were both wanted in Cambodia for posting critical comments about government policies online earlier this month, and Thailand deported them to Cambodia. Human Rights Watch reports that both activists were members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the popular opposition party that was dissolved by the Cambodian high court in 2017.

Thailand political activists

Authorities in Cambodia and Thailand claim they were following normal legal and border control procedures.

General Chhay Kim Khoeun, the spokesperson for Cambodia’s National Police, confirmed to The Associated Press that the three nationals have been expelled from Thailand.

Deputy Director-General of Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, Major General Achayon Kraithong, said his agency’s duty was to deport people who entered the country illegally.

Human Rights Watch, however, claims that Thai and Cambodian authorities reached a de facto “fugitive agreement”, wherein each country retaliates political dissidents wanted by their home governments.

HRW said in a statement earlier this month that Thai political activists are believed to be hiding in Cambodia after the 2014 coup in Thailand, while Cambodian political activists are believed to have taken refuge in Thailand following the Cambodian government’s crackdown on political opposition.”

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