BANGKOK — An international human rights group on Monday expressed concerns about the safety of a Laotian asylum seeker who was arrested in Bangkok over the weekend.
Keomanivong Khoukham, a member of pro-democracy Free Lao group, was apprehended despite the fact that he holds a UNHCR card, Andrea Giorgetta, regional director of the France-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said Monday.
“This is not the first time they do it,” Giorgetta said. “When fellow activist Od Sayavong disappeared in August 2019, the Thai police spokesman said he didn’t know about it, even though a missing person report had been filed at a local police station in Bangkok days earlier.”
Giorgetta said the activist is at risk of being detained and prosecuted in Laos if deported, adding that the chance of him being deported is “imminent.”
Police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen said he acknowledged the arrest, which was made on Saturday after the police were tipped off about his overstay. Contrary to what human rights groups said, the spokesman said he did not carry a UNHCR card when he was arrested.
“He has no UNHCR card with him, only the passport,” Col. Kissana said over the phone Monday.
Since Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, asylum seekers are considered as illegal immigrants by the Thai authorities. They are subjected to arrests and deportation back to the countries they tried to escape.