BANGKOK: Human rights groups expressed alarm at Thailand’s detention of more than 160 asylum seekers from hill tribe ethnic minorities in Vietnam and Cambodia, saying they face possible persecution if returned to their homelands.
Thai and international rights groups on Thursday said the asylum seekers were rounded up on Tuesday in a northern suburb of Bangkok and charged with immigration law violations.
The Thai group Human Rights Lawyers Association said some had cards from the United Nations refugee agency identifying them as having been certified as refugees.
The group said the detainees, from the Jarai and other minorities, “fled persecution, discrimination and repression” in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Puttanee Kangkun, a human rights worker with the group Fortify Rights, said the 38 detainees from Cambodia could be sent directly back under a bilateral agreement, but there is no such agreement with Vietnam, which means the other detainees must face trial before any further action against them is considered.
They were tried and found guilty yesterday, Puttanee said.
Those unable to pay fines could be detained indefinitely