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Human rights NGO slams deportation of Thai asylum seeker

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Human Rights Watch has condemned the deportation by Malaysia of a Thai activist, who is wanted in her home country for her anti-monarchy views.

In a statement this morning, the international NGO's Asia director Brad Adams expressed concern that Praphan Pipithnamporn (above), who is an asylum seeker registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), could face persecution in Thailand.

Praphan fled to Malaysia in January this year, after the Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant against her, accusing her of sedition and organised crime over her involvement in the Organization for Thai Federation, a group that is critical of the monarchy and calls for a republic on social media.

She then applied for refugee status with UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur, and on April 2, the refugee agency registered her claim as an asylum seeker and designated her a 'person of concern'.

However, Praphan was arrested by the Malaysian police on April 24, at the request of their Thai counterparts, and was sent back to Bangkok on May 10, where Adams (below) said she is likely to face an unfair trial.

"Malaysia’s flouting of international law has placed a Thai activist at grave risk of arbitrary detention and an unjust prosecution in Thailand.

"Malaysian authorities have an obligation to protect asylum seekers like Praphan from being forcibly returned to the risk of being persecuted for their peaceful political views," Adams said, adding that prior to her fleeing to Malaysia, Praphan had faced intimidation from Thai authorities.

He said Praphan was arrested several times between September and December 2018, and held incommunicado under military detention. Threats against Praphan intensified after she participated in a peaceful anti-monarchy activity during the birthday memorial for the late King Rama IX on Dec 5 last year.

"On that day, she wore a black T-shirt with a logo of her group and handed out leaflets criticising the monarchy at a Bangkok shopping mall."

Adams noted that under customary international law, Malaysia is obligated to ensure that no one is forcibly sent to a place where they would risk being subjected to persecution, torture or other serious human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya said the deportation was a disregard of the rights of a political refugee and is similar to that practised by the previous BN government.

She questioned why the Harapan government was continuing such a "repressive and unlawful" stance.

"Thailand has been aggressive in pursuing anti-monarchy activists, including those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

"Two Thai activists were murdered in Lao in late 2018, and in early 2019 three more members of Organization for Thai Federation went missing from Vietnam, amid fears of enforced disappearances and extradition.

"Against this backdrop, the Malaysian government would have been fully aware of the danger they placed Praphan in when they deported her at the request of the Thai authorities," she said in a statement.

Latheefa said it was egregious that Malaysia deported Praphan under sedition charges, knowing that Thailand has some of the most extreme lese-majeste laws in the world and considering Malaysia's own intent to abolish the Sedition Act.

"As a government that has made a stand against the Sedition Act and other laws which restrict free speech in Malaysia, they cannot simultaneously deport peaceful activists to regimes which seek to prosecute them under even more tyrannical laws.

"This act by the government is inconsistent with its stated commitments to fairness, democracy and protecting human rights," she said.

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