Updated at 10:0am 28 April 2018
Political fugitive Sam Serey, wanted by the Cambodian government for allegedly operating a "terrorist" group, flew to Denmark early Friday morning, despite a request for his extradition from Thailand.
Serey confirmed the flight on Friday evening, saying only, "Yes, I am now arriving in Denmark."
Serey, founder of the dissident group KNLF, was arrested in Bangkok on Wednesday after overstaying his visa. Cambodian authorities put in a request for his extradition on Thursday, citing Serey's past convictions for trying to "topple the government". He was sentenced in absentia after being granted political asylum by Denmark, where he lives.
A senior Khmer National Liberation Front member based in Bangkok, who asked for anonymity to discuss the matter, confirmed that the Danish government and a human rights group intervened in Serey's case and that Thai authorities allowed him to leave around 1:20am on Friday morning.
He said he was not sure why the Thai government agreed to allow Serey to go to Denmark instead of Cambodia.
“Only him [Serey] and Thai authority could answer it," he said. "We as members are not aware of that."
Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, applauded the decision.
“Thailand deserves credit for making the right decision to respect Sam Serey’s continuing refugee status and sending him back to Denmark, the nation that is providing him with refugee protection," Robertson said in a statement. "Clearly, the Royal Danish Embassy, UN agencies and other like-minded diplomats in Bangkok were very determined in persuading the Thai government to respect Sam Serey’s refugee status and not send him back to Cambodia."
When contacted Friday, Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he did not know about the situation. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry could not be reached.
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs also did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman at the Danish Embassy in Bangkok, meanwhile, said she had "no new confirmed information." In a statement Thursday, the embassy confirmed only that a foreign citizen with permanent residence in Denmark was detained in Thailand.
Past convictions of Serey and several other members of the Denmark-based KNLF were widely seen as politically motivated.
Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson