Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand expels Khmer Krom asylum seekers: rights groups

Thailand expels Khmer Krom asylum seekers: rights groups

Thailand expels Khmer Krom asylum seekers: rights groups

Rights workers say group was trucked out of Thailand after UN officials previously intervened to secure release of others

FOLLOWING the release Monday of 19 Khmer Krom refugees from a Bangkok prison, the seven remaining in detention were abruptly expelled from the country under suspicious circumstances, according to local rights activists.

Ang Chanrith, head of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization, said seven Khmer Krom political refugees were shuttled to the Poipet border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province in the middle of the night Thursday.

The original group of 19 Khmer Krom, who hold refugee documents from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were released after the UN office petitioned Thai officials to recognise them as legitimate asylum seekers, he said. Ang Chanrith has been working on the case with UN officials in Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

Members of the group released Monday had contacted him early Thursday morning to warn of the departure of the seven left in detention, who were  recent arrivals to Bangkok and therefore had not yet been registered with the UNHCR, he said.  

"We are concerned they could be taken back to Vietnam," he said.

Escaping the past

Ang Chanrith said all 26 people had fled Vietnam after they feared imprisonment at the hands of authorities there following public demonstrations against limits on their freedom of culture, religion and speech.

Rights groups and Khmer Krom activists have accused the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments of engaging in a persistent and often violent campaign to stifle the rights and distinct identity of the Khmer ethnic group originating from what is now Vietnam's southern Delta.

Hun Hean, provincial police chief of Banteay Meanchey, said he had not heard about the incident, adding that between 100 and 200 illegal Khmer immigrants were turned over by Thai authorities at the border each day.

Suong Sopheap, a program officer with the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre in Banteay Meanchey, said his staff had attempted to track the whereabouts of the group without success.

"We have staff remaining in Poipet who are continuing to monitor the situation," he said.

Christophe Peschoux, head of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Phnom Penh, said his office was following the case but had not been in contact with the group.

"It's a very tricky situation for Khmer Krom in Cambodia," he said. "Even if the government gives them citizenship, if they agitate from Cambodia it could create tension between the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments; and Cambodia could be pressured to prevent it or hand them over to Vietnamese authorities."

The government has said all Khmer Krom are entitled to Cambodian citizenship, but Khmer Krom activists and rights groups say their status as Cambodians is ambiguous and can be stricken at the whim of the state. 

MOST VIEWED

  • Reuters: US Embassy fired 32 staff members for sharing pornography

    The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh has fired 32 non-diplomatic staff members who were allegedly caught exchanging pornographic images and video, including of minors, according to the news agency Reuters. Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the content was shared in

  • Our 2018 guide to spending Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh

    Khmer New Year festivities are upon us. For the next few days, travellers will be making their way to their home provinces to eat, celebrate, play traditional games and visit a pagoda with offerings. If you will be staying put in Phnom Penh for the

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the