On July 7, 2023, Mr. Thol Samnang an activist from the Sangthian (Candlelight) party, a political party opposing the Cambodian government, and the youth leader of a village in Kandal province in Cambodia. He got arrested near the Victory Monument in Bangkok Thailand by a group of unidentified plain clothes officers. To date, it is still unknown whether they are Thai or Cambodian officers.
Later on July 8, 2023, Mr. Thol Samnang had been transferred to a local police station in Bangkok before being detained at the IDC, Immigration Bureau, Soi Suan Phlu, Bangkok. On that day, the lawyers from CrCF together with the lawyers from the Refugee Rights Litigation Project visited and learned from Mr. Thol Samnang that he is seeking asylum and did not consent for the Thai authorities to send him back to Cambodia. The lawyers then informed the immigration officer and submitted a petition not to return Mr. Thol Samnang to Cambodia as he may face persecution.
There were several cases being documented by international agencies including United Nations that position politicians and human rights activists from Cambodia were facing persecution from repression, detention, arrest, and unfair prosecution by the Cambodian authorities in the country and when returned from transnational repressions.
Cross Cultural Foundation together with the Refugee Rights Litigation Project and its affiliates, when receiving such information. There is a concern that the arrest this time may not be an ordinary arrest of illegal immigrants, but with the aim of returning Mr. Thol Samnang to Cambodia. It was previously shown that the Thai military under Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s government has expel/ forced returned many opposing activists back to the Cambodian authorities, which is violated the customary law on the protection of any asylum seeker/refugee.
Additional to what we know, this Cambodian man fled from the Kandal province on Tuesday, July 5, 2023, after he was being intimidated and followed by Kandal police who surrounded his house for two days. This caused him to flee to Thailand in order to escape from the persecution. Currently, the process is at the level of coordinating international protection from the UNHCR in Bangkok.
In fact, Thailand has the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act, B.E. 2565, which has been enforceable since February 22, 2023. It is aligned with the UNCAT convention stating not to send anyone back to persecution.
According to section 13 of the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act, B.E. 2565:
“Government agencies or public officials shall not expel, return a person or extradite to another state. If there is a foreseeable reason to believe that that person will be in danger of being subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment to a person, or to disappearance.”
Then, if the official hands over Mr. Thol Samnang to the Cambodian authorities, it may be an offense against this ACT.
Cross Cultural Foundation together with the Refugee Rights Litigation Project urges the Thai authorities and other related agencies, to respect the right to seek asylum of Mr. Thol Samnang and persons of the same status as follows:
1. It is prohibited by Thai law to expel/return refugees out of the country, if they may face torture. Any acts that are cruel, inhuman, degrading to human dignity, forced disappearance, or persecution in any form.
2. Requesting the United Nations and the international community to take the necessary measures to ensure that the Thai authorities do not return Mr. Thol Samnang back.
3. Appealing the Thai authorities to immediately release Mr. Thol Samnang, also granted him to seek political asylum in Thailand or to the Third Country immediately.
4. Requesting the Thai authorities to strictly treat refugees and their families in accordance with international human rights, and the principles for treating refugees. In addition, complying with the commitment that has been made by the Royal Thai Government to the United Nations Human Rights Conference in New York City as well.
5. Insisting the Royal Thai Police, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Administration to examine whether the arrest and the detention of Mr. Thol Samnang. In accordance, with the provisions of the Criminal & Procedural Code and the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act B.E. 2565, especially under sections 22 and 23.
Contact for further information, Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF):02 101 5481