UNHCR urges governments not to send refugees, asylum seekers back into danger


PETALING JAYA: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged governments not to send refugees or asylum-seekers back to situations where their lives can be in danger.

Malaysia had recently extradited a woman wanted by authorities in Thailand over her anti-monarchy views following a request for her deportation, which was confirmed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

"All over the world, UNHCR urges governments to uphold the principle of non-refoulement and to not send refugees and asylum-seekers back to situations where their lives can be in danger," its spokesman Yante Ismail said in an emailed statement to The Star Online Thursday (May 16).

UNHCR had been asked about the case of Thai national Praphan Pipithnamporn who was sent back home recently.

According to Human Rights Watch, Praphan was an asylum-seeker registered with the UNHCR but was arrested by the police in April on Thailand’s request.

UNHCR said that due to reasons of confidentiality and data protection, they were unable to comment on individual cases. 

“If there is a request, then we will send back. (We are a) good neighbour,” Dr Mahathir said at a press conference on Tuesday (May 14).

Thai authorities accused Praphan of sedition and organised crime over her involvement with the Organisation of Thai Federation, a movement that has been actively calling for a republic on social media.

Thailand has some of the world’s toughest lese-majeste laws.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) had said they were deeply concerned over the arrest and repatriation of Praphan, and condemned the government for behaving like an accomplice of the Thai military junta.

"The repatriation of Praphan Pipithnamporn is clearly a violation of the fundamental principle prohibiting refoulement under customary international law.

"Such action is breaching the commitment of the Pakatan Harapan government in upholding the rule of law," said PSM International Bureau coordinator Choo Chon Kai.