Thai police detain 10 Cambodians during workshop in Bangkok

The arrests follow a request to the Thai government to monitor Cambodian activists in the country.
By RFA Khmer
2024.01.03
Thai police detain 10 Cambodians during workshop in Bangkok Thai immigration officials interrogate and deport Cambodian political activists at a workshop on the Paris Peace Agreement, in Bangkok, Thailand, on Dec. 29, 2023.
(Screenshot from video at Facebook/@សូ មេត្តា)

Thai immigration police arrested 10 Cambodians during a civic workshop in Bangkok last week, several activists have told Radio Free Asia.

The arrests on Friday were made several days after nine minor political parties and 15 NGOs aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, urged Thai authorities to monitor opposition activists in Thailand.

Friday’s workshop was attended by 30 Cambodian migrant workers and political asylum seekers and included information on Cambodia’s 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, which formally ended decades of war in the country and paved the way for parliamentary democracy in the country.

Cambodian opposition activists held a separate workshop on democracy and human rights that was attended by nearly 100 people in Bangkok on Dec. 2, seminar organizer Lem Sokha told RFA. 

After that workshop, Khmer Unity Great Nation Party President Heang Kimsroeun contacted the office of Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. He said in a statement on Thursday that Thailand’s progressive Move Forward Party had provided space and training for Cambodian political extremists.

“The Move Forward Party have acted in support of a group from an anti-government movement in Cambodia and they use Thailand, a neighboring country, as a safe haven for their propaganda against the government,” Heang Kimsroeun said in the statement, according to the Khmer Times

Those activities have been “an interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs, which undermines good relations between the two governments,” he said.

Seven still detained

Move Forward, which is not part of Thailand’s coalition government despite winning the largest share of votes in last May’s election, said in a statement last week that it “has never organized or supported any activity that is involved with a political group in Cambodia.”

Dozens of pro-democracy Cambodian activists have fled to Thailand to seek asylum in recent years as the CPP has used intimidation and the courts to neutralize the political opposition. Thailand is also host to more than 1 million Cambodian migrant workers. 

Several Cambodians have said they were attacked in public in Thailand in 2023 because of their activism.

The Dec. 29 civic workshop was allowed to continue after the 10 Cambodians were arrested, environmental activist So Metta told RFA.

Police told the 10 Cambodians they were being detained because they were illegally staying in Thailand, So Metta said. She added that all 10 have refugee or asylum status from the United Nations refugee agency, or UNHCR, that gives them legal protection in Thailand.

Seven of the 10 Cambodians were still being held on Wednesday at the Bangkok Immigration Detention Center, according to So Metta and Human Rights Watch.

So Metta told RFA that she and two of her sisters are among the seven still detained.

Am Sam Ath, the director of Cambodian human rights group Licadho, said Thailand must honor its agreement with the UNHCR to allow asylum seekers and refugees to stay in the country. 

He added that Thailand was also one of 18 countries that signed the Paris Peace Agreement, so hosting a workshop about the agreement shouldn’t be viewed as suspicious by Thai authorities.

Translated by Chandara Yang and Sok Ry Sum. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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