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

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,