BANGKOK – Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says he has sent a letter of protest to the United Nations’ refugee agency for reportedly helping a lese majeste suspect Ekapop Luara, aka Tang Acheewa, escape the Junta.
According to The New Zealand Herald, Ekapop Luara, aka Tang Acheewa, was assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in his escape from Thailand to Cambodia shortly after the military staged a coup on 22 May 2014.
Ekapop, 23, is wanted by Thai authorities for allegedly insulting the Thai monarchy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Codes. He posted on his Facebook several weeks ago that he is now living in New Zealand, claiming to have been granted asylum by NZ authorities. His Facebook account has since been deactivated.
Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent letters of protest to “7-8 countries” that are believed to be harboring Thai lese majeste suspects. According to the Khaosod News Gen. Prayuth, none of those foreign governments have responded to the letters.
“They haven’t given us any answer, so we can’t do anything about it, because we are not strong enough to fight the entire world,” Gen. Prayuth lamented. “We should wait until we are the superpower first before we think of doing anything like that.”
On 6 January, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned a diplomat from the New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok to express its concern over reports that Ekapop is residing in New Zealand.
The MFA also asked the New Zealand authorities not to allow anyone who violates Thai laws to use its country as a base for political activities.
Since the 22 May 2014 coup, the prosecution of lese majeste suspects has risen considerably. Gen. Prayuth, considered a hardline royalist, has also granted military courts – which do not permit appeals – jurisdiction over lese majeste cases.
Among those currently facing prosecution are two theatre activists accused by the military of insulting the Royal Family through a play about a fictional monarch in October 2013. The two activists have been held in prison since they were arrested last August, with the court repeatedly denying their requests for release on bail.
The growing persecution has forced a number of activists and academics to flee Thailand and seek asylum in foreign countries. Apart from Ekapop, other notable exiles include transgender activist Saran Chuichai and historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who say they are living in France, as well as Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a political science scholar who lives in Japan. – Khaosod