NEW YORK (July 8, 2014) — The United Nations refugee agency today spoke out against the deportation of a Laotian man from Thailand back to his homeland, where he could face harsh treatment amounting to persecution.
According to information confirmed this week by the Thai authorities, the deportation of the former Lao Hmong leader took place on 13 June, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva.
The agency is “dismayed” by Thailand’s action, Adrian Edwards said, noting that deportation goes against the principle of non-refoulement – or no forced return – enshrined in international customary law.
“This principle is binding on all States and precludes them from sending a refugee to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened,” said Mr. Edwards.
UNHCR had urged the Thai Government not to send the man back since his detention in March 2013. Given his high profile, the agency has serious concerns over the risks to him now that he has been returned to Laos.
“UNHCR appeals to the Thai authorities to uphold their responsibilities under international law and ensure full respect for the rights of people in need of international protection,” Mr. Edwards stated.
The agency noted that Thailand continues to generously host more than 128,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, the vast majority of them living in nine temporary shelters/camps along the border with Myanmar.