THE Malaysian Bar is deeply concerned by the Malaysian government’s action in deporting Praphan Pipithnamporn, an asylum seeker registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur, to Thailand on May 10, reportedly at the request of the Thai government.
According to media reports, Praphan is a member of the Organisation for Thai Federation. She was arrested many times between September and December 2018 by the Thai authorities, and an arrest warrant was issued in January 2019 for her participation in anti-monarchy activity during the birthday memorial for the late King Rama IX on Dec 5.
She arrived in Malaysia in January 2019 and subsequently applied for asylum at the UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur. On April 2, the UNHCR registered her claim as an asylum seeker and designated her as a “person of concern”. As such, she should be protected under the principle of international law known as non-refoulement.
It is disheartening and troubling that the Malaysian government violated international law, and abdicated its legal and moral obligation not to deport individuals back to situations where their very lives may be in serious jeopardy.
Although Thailand and Malaysia have signed a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, under Section 8 of our Extradition Act 1992 there are prohibitions against extradition in certain circumstances, including:
1. If the offence in respect of which (an individual’s) return is sought is of a political character or he proves to the Minister that the warrant for his return has in fact been made with a view to try or punish him for an offence of a political character.
2. If the request for his surrender although purporting to be made for an extradition offence was in fact made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person on account of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.
3. Or if he might be prejudiced at his trial or punished or imprisoned by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions.
The Malaysian government should not dismiss due consideration of these provisions.
The Malaysian Bar calls on the Malaysian government, as a responsible member of the international community, to honour, respect and uphold the rules and customs of international law – including the principle of non-refoulement – as well as the provisions of Malaysian law.