Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) expressing concern in a letter of petition concerning the persecution of Montagnards ethnic minority refugees and asylum seekers from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Cambodia
On 30 August 2018, Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) has submitted the letter no. HRLA 48/2561 to the Nonthaburi District Court, the Office of the Court of Justice, expressing its concern about the persecution of the Montagnards ethnic minority refugees and asylum seekers from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Cambodia. HRLA has been contacted by a member organization which had been assisting the ethnic minority refugees and asylum seekers who had been indicted with the Nonthaburi District Court on 29 August 2018. The ethnic minority refugees and asylum seekers have fled persecution, discrimination and repression from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Cambodia. They have sought refugee status from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand. Some of them have been granted a status from UNHCR and issued with a card by the organization whereas others are having their applications under review.
HRLA has been informed by our member organization that during the initial court hearing, no interpretation services had been given to the defendants. Later, another hearing has been conducted during which an interpreter has been provided by the organization making the hearing fall in compliance with the law and respect the rights of defendants as provided for by the Criminal Procedure Code’s Section 13 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)’s Article 14.3 (f).
Nevertheless, being aware that a number of other refugees and asylum seekers are being indicted with the Court, HRLA is concerned about the adequacy of interpretation services, entitlement of which is a fundamental right to ensure an individual have access to justice process. Regardless if they are refugees and asylum seekers who have entered the country illegally, or foreign investors who have entered the country legally, they are supposed to receive equal treatment before the law.
In addition, we would like to seek an opportunity to bring to your attention that the issues about refugees and asylum seekers are rather complicated and they should not be confused with migrant workers. The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 refers to a refugee as a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality. In other word, if it was possible for them to remain in their countries, they would have not have left their home countries to seek a refuge elsewhere. Even though Thailand is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, it still has an obligation to international customary law, and thereby is obligated to treat them as refugees and to not deport them to face persecution or repression (non-refoulement) anywhere. Also, the spirit of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 should be taken in account during the adjudication of the cases against them with an emphasis on the intricate complication of refugee problems.
Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) is a not-for-profit organization advocating protection and upholding of human rights, access to justice process and the right to fair trial without any discrimination. Our members include individual lawyers and organizations working in all regions of the country.
For more information, please contact Lawyer Manu Manuratsada, 081 439 4938