Refugee right groups have expressed grave concern that the Thai government may send Cambodian opposition members currently seeking refuge in Thailand back to Cambodia, according to The Phnom Penh Post Online report on Monday (Feb 12).
The concern stemmed from the extradition last week of refugee Sam Sokha back to Cambodia to face charge of throwing shoes at a billboard of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
After her extradition, it was disclosed that Sam Sokha had been sentenced in absentia to two years’ imprisonment on January 25 by Kampong Speu provincial court.
About 100 Cambodian opposition supporters are estimated to be residing in Thailand with about half of them seeking asylum following the forced dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in November.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak did not deny the government might ask the Thai government to return the opposition supporters back to Cambodia.
Evan Jones of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network said the Thai government appeared to have capitulated to political pressure in Sokha’s case.
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Communications Programme Manager Marte Hellema said via email that the Thai government’s blatant ignorance of Sokha’s refugee status and deportation of her to Cambodia “raises very serious concerns about others that have also sought refuge in Thailand.”