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Thailand urged not to deport Myanmar asylum seekers

Rights activists warn that five Myanmar nationals could face imprisonment or worse if sent back

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Published: May 12, 2021 04:37 AM GMT

Updated: May 12, 2021 04:47 AM GMT

Thailand urged not to deport Myanmar asylum seekers

Protesters hold up the three-finger salute as they march during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on May 11. (Photo: AFP)

The Thai government may deport three journalists and two political dissidents from Myanmar who have been detained for entering the country illegally, according to local authorities.

The five Myanmar nationals were detained on May 9 in the northern city of Chiang Mai and if they were to be deported back to Myanmar, they could face imprisonment or worse, rights activists have warned.

“Their life will be in serious danger if they were to return,” Aye Chan Naing, executive director of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) news outlet, stressed in a statement while pleading for help for the detainees from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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The five asylum seekers fled their homeland during the Myanmar army’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators after a military coup on Feb. 1, according to DVB, which has been documenting the numerous rights abuses of the military for months.

More than 750 people have been killed and 5,000 others arrested in Myanmar, including more than 70 journalists, as security forces have sought to quell all dissent against military rule.

Extrajudicial killings and torture have been widely used by the Tatmadaw (armed forces) against protesters, journalists and other citizens deemed to be “enemies,” according to numerous reports.

These five individuals would face certain arrest and persecution, if not worse, for their work and association with the DVB

A senior police officer in Chiang Mai told the Reuters news agency on May 11 that the five Myanmar citizens would be deported after being held in quarantine for 14 days according to a Covid-related regulation.

In a statement posted online the same day, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), which is based in Bangkok, said it was “seriously concerned” about the arrest and planned deportation of the three journalists and two political activists from Myanmar.

“These five individuals would face certain arrest and persecution, if not worse, for their work and association with the DVB, and under no circumstances should they be deported back to Myanmar,” the FCCT said.

“Rather, the DVB journalists and their associates should be released from detention, urgently offered protection and granted the right to remain temporarily in Thailand.” 

In response to the widespread public outrage in Thailand, Tanee Sangrat, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, said in a post on Twitter that Thai authorities are seeking a “humanitarian solution” in the case of the detained Myanmar nationals.

“Thai authorities concerned are coordinating to find a possible humanitarian solution to this case,” Tanee said.

The deportation of the three journalists would be a blow not only to the cause of press freedom in Thailand but also to the country’s image abroad, the FCCT said.

“The world is watching what the Thai authorities do in this important case for press freedom in Myanmar and the region, and for the protection of those fleeing the junta’s brutal crackdown on independent media and civil society,” the media organization stressed.

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