US religious freedom commission urges Thailand not to deport Hmong activist to Vietnam

Thai authorities arrested Lu A Da, head of the Hmong Human Rights Coalition, on Dec. 7.
By RFA Vietnamese
US religious freedom commission urges Thailand not to deport Hmong activist to Vietnam Vietnamese human rights activist Lu A Da, head of the Hmong Human Rights Coalition, speaks at a virtual event.
Vietnam Civil Rights Project

The vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on Thailand not to extradite Hmong preacher and human rights activist Lu A Da back to Vietnam. 

Frederick Davie issued the call following a Dec. 13 Radio Free Asia report on Lu’s arrest by Thai police. Authorities later detained him at Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Center. 

Thai police arrested Lu, a former missionary and preacher at the Northern Evangelical Church of Vietnam and head of the Hmong Human Rights Coalition, at his rental home in Bangkok on Dec. 7. 

His arrest occurred two weeks after he publicly denounced the Vietnamese government’s “systematic suppression of Hmong communities in Vietnam.”

Lu and his family fled Vietnam in 2020 to escape ethnic and religious persecution and entered Thailand illegally to seek official refugee status.

“USCIRF is concerned for Lu A Da, a Hmong activist & preacher who fled religious persecution in Vietnam,” Davie posted on the X account of the commission, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government entity that monitors, analyzes and reports on threats to religious freedom worldwide. 

“He is currently detained by the Thai Royal Police, & is facing potential deportation back to Vietnam due to his activism,” he said.

The same day, USCIRF Commissioner Eric Ueland tweeted on the commission's X account that the “Biden administration must raise with Thailand its practice of deporting members of vulnerable religious minorities back to home countries where they face persecution, detainment, & torture.”

Thai immigration authorities have detained other Vietnamese victims of religious persecution who entered Thailand illegally to escape repression by the Vietnamese government. 

More than 1,000 Hmong asylum seekers live in Thailand, according to the Hmong Human Rights Coalition. Because Thailand has not ratified the U.N.'s refugee convention, authorities can arrest asylum seekers without providing justification.

Life may be at risk

On Thursday, Lu’s wife, Giang Thi A, told RFA that she was concerned about her husband’s possible deportation to Vietnam and that the Center for Asylum Protection was trying to get him freed on bail. 

“As he is a human rights activist, the Vietnamese government hates him, and the return would put his life at risk,” she said. 

After Lu’s arrest, the U.N.’s refugee agency in Bangkok granted refugee status to her husband and the rest of his family, she said. 

Vang Sao Gia, a member of the Hmong Human Rights Coalition and a refugee in Thailand, said he suspects that the Vietnamese government was involved in the arrest of Lu, who managed the civil society organization, and of other Vietnamese who have sought refuge there. 

“Previously, when [Vietnamese] refugees were arrested, I used to think that they were just unlucky,” he said. “However, after the recent arrests of a couple of Montagnard people and then of our organization’s members, I have grounds to suspect that the Vietnamese government is involved.” 

In late November, Thai police arrested 11 members of the Montagnard ethnic minority in a raid near Bangkok and are detaining them at the Immigration Detention Center.

Like the Hmong minority, about 1,500 Vietnamese Montagnards have sought freedom from persecution in Thailand.

If deported to Vietnam, the refugees could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison under the Penal Code for “fleeing the country or remaining abroad to oppose the people’s government.”

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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