Prime Minister Mahathir confirmed this afternoon that a Thai woman seeking refuge in Malaysia for anti-monarchy statements made at home has been sent back to Bangkok.
Having tried to secure asylum status at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) here in Kuala Lumpur, activist Praphan Pipithnamporn’s bid failed and she was ultimately sent back upon a request from Thai authorities issued last month.
“If there is a request, then we will send back. We are a good neighbor,” Mahathir said at a Putrajaya press conference today.
The swift turn of events went into motion shortly after the bid from Thai authorities was sent out. Praphan was arrested by Malaysian authorities on April 24 and sent back two weeks later on May 10.
Human Rights Watch alleges that in doing so, Malaysia has shown contempt for its international legal obligations to protect the woman.
“Malaysia’s flouting of international law has placed a Thai activist at grave risk of arbitrary detention and an unjust prosecution in Thailand,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“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.”
A Thai arrest warrant has cited her charges as being that of sedition, and organized crime for her role in the Organization for Thai Federation, “a peaceful anti-monarchy group.”
Prior to her arrest, she had faced run-ins with authorities over her participation in anti-monarchy rallies, and held in isolation in military detention.
Thailand has some of the world’s toughest lese-majeste laws, with swift and harsh punishments for those who fall out of line.
Meanwhile, we’d just like to remind the good folks keeping track of these things that controversial Muslim cleric Zakir Naik is currently wanted by Indian authorities on a laundry list of charges, but somehow managed to get permanent residence here. Hmmm.
“As long as he is not creating any problem, we will not deport him, because he has been given permanent residency status.”