Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - RCAF ‘observing’ in Thailand, with photos showing army-plated vehicles in Bangkok

RCAF ‘observing’ in Thailand, with photos showing army-plated vehicles in Bangkok

Defence Minister Tea Banh meets Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week in Bangkok, where both countries agreed to exchange political refugees with the intent of creating "chaos and incitement". Facebook
Defence Minister Tea Banh meets Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last week in Bangkok, where both countries agreed to exchange political refugees with the intent of creating "chaos and incitement". Facebook

RCAF ‘observing’ in Thailand, with photos showing army-plated vehicles in Bangkok

Days after Cambodian and Thai officials reportedly agreed on closer coordination over “foreign fugitives”, opposition party members who have fled the country for Thailand have provided evidence of Cambodian military vehicles stationed near their homes in Bangkok, increasing fear among asylum seekers that they could be extradited.

Last week Defence Minister Tea Banh met with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok and “agreed to exchange foreign fugitives” so as to prevent either country from becoming a base for “riot and conflict incitement”, according to a Thai government statement.

Bangkok is seen as the first site of refuge for political and civil society figures escaping a crackdown in the Kingdom, but international rights groups have raised concerns over a potential increase in deportations, especially following the forced return of Kampong Speu resident Sam Sokha.

Facing arrest after throwing a shoe at a CPP billboard, Sokha fled to Thailand, where she received United Nations recognition as a refugee but was extradited to Cambodia in February. She is now serving a two-year prison sentence.

Mao Vibol, a former CNRP exile from Svay Rieng province residing in Bangkok, said that he started to notice a vehicle with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces plates over the last two weeks.

Photos provided to The Post show a white vehicle with the distinctive red and blue number plates used by military vehicles in Cambodia on a street that appears to be in Bangkok. He said the vehicle followed opposition members living with him, even during innocuous shopping trips.

“They observe us. They park the car near the garden when we do exercise and they even observe us at the market,” he said.

He added that he had moved apartments in Bangkok and that others had decided to leave the city.

Another ex-CNRP official, who requested anonymity because he is currently in Phnom Penh on a short visit, said he saw a similar vehicle with RCAF plates earlier this month in Bangkok, with officers appearing to monitor his activities by taking photos and videos of his movements. “Even if I go to submit the document at the UN office, they take my photograph,” he said.

He speculated the agreement between the two countries was intended to make their safety in Thailand as uncertain as if they had remained in the Kingdom.

“This is targeted on the opposition party. Why they did not do this before that? Why only after the opposition party was dissolved did they agree to this arrangement?” he asked.

Such an agreement has not been confirmed by Cambodian officials, with Defence Ministry spokesman Chum Socheat and CPP representative Sok Eysan unavailable for comment.

RCAF spokesman Mao Phalla denied that its vehicles were being used to monitor former CNRP members in Thailand, saying that army vehicles would only travel to the Thai capital for official meetings to discuss transnational crime.

The Thai announcement of a potential deal between the two neighbours to exchange fugitives also sparked concerns among right groups.

In a short statement, the Thailand-based Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network said the return of any individuals to Cambodia was incumbent on “the non-derogable principle of non-refoulement”, which forbids retuning someone to a country where their “life and liberty may be in danger”.

Simon Walker, Cambodia representative of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that while Thailand had not signed the UN’s Refugee Convention, there were strong arguments to be made that other international laws prevent the forcible deportation of refugees.

“Any case of a possible extradition should be subject to an individual assessment of the person’s situation. That assessment should take into account the risks that person might face in being extradited,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused

  • PM sets tourism reopening as centrepiece of ATF 2022

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urged ASEAN to reopen tourism and trade now that many of the bloc’s member countries have vaccinated their populations. Speaking at the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022 (ATF 2022) in Preah Sihanouk province on January 18, the premier also said ASEAN has a