H’mong activist arrested by Thai police after denouncing Vietnam’s rights violations

Lù A Da and his family now face the threat of being deported back to Vietnam.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.12.13
H’mong activist arrested by Thai police after denouncing Vietnam’s  rights violations Vietnamese activist Lù A Da is the head of the H’mong Human Rights Coalition.
(Vietnam Civil Rights Project)

Vietnamese human rights activist Lù A Da was arrested by Thai Royal Police at his rental home near Bangkok on Dec. 7, his wife said.

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

“Last Thursday, the police arrested him and took him away while he and our daughter were washing a vehicle,” Lù’s wife Giang Thi A told Radio Free Asia.

“He’s now being held in a police station. If we pay 10,000 Thai baht, he will be transferred to the IDC [the Immigration Detention Center],” she said.

Giang explained that the 10,000 baht (US$280) bail is an administrative fee levied on Lù for having entered Thailand illegally in 2020. 

If Giang does not pay the fee, her husband will have to remain detained at the police station for 20 days before being transferred to the IDC, she said.

RFA contacted the Thai Royal Police about his case, but has yet to receive a response.

Missionary and activist

Before arriving in Thailand, Lù worked as a missionary and preacher at the Northern Evangelical Church of Vietnam. He also served as the head of the H’mong Human Rights Coalition. 

Lù fled to Thailand with his family in 2020 to escape ethnic and religious persecution and seek official refugee status from the UNHCR. His wife told RFA that their family has applied for refugee status twice since first arriving in Thailand. 

Their first application was rejected, and their appeal – filed in March– has not yet been processed by the UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.

Because they have not been officially recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, Lù, Giang, and their two children now face being deported back to Vietnam.

Although Thai police have yet to issue an official statement on the case, Lù was likely arrested for denouncing Vietnam’s “systematic suppression of ethnic and religious minorities” in a video released by Boat People SOS, a U.S.-based advocacy group for Vietnamese refugees.

“Tens of thousands of H’mong people in Vietnam are not granted identification and birth and marriage certificates,” Lù stated in the video. 

“As a result, children cannot go to school, adults cannot work, and seniors are not entitled to healthcare assistance provided by the government like others from the dominant ethnic group.”

The BPSOS video was released on Nov. 29 as a preview to the UN’s upcoming review of Vietnam’s implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The findings of the U.N. review were officially released on Dec. 8. 

Asylum-seekers in Thailand

As of December 2023, there are more than 1,000 H’mong asylum seekers living in Thailand, the H’mong Human Rights Coalition reports.

Because Thailand has not signed the International Convention on Refugees, Thai police can arrest asylum seekers without providing any justification.

In late November, Thai police arrested 11 members of the Montagnard ethnic minority in a raid near Bangkok. As of Dec. 13, they have not yet been released from detention at the IDC.

Like the H’mong minority, roughly 1,500 Vietnamese Montagnards have sought freedom from persecution in Thailand.

After her husband’s arrest, Giang Thi A sought assistance from the Center for Asylum Protection, or CAP, in Bangkok.

“Yesterday, an attorney there said that they would be paying the fine for my husband today so that the police could send him to the IDC right away,” she told RFA. 

“After being transferred to the IDC, the attorney could talk to the Thai police to see how much money they would need [to bail him out].”

The head of CAP said that the organization was working with the UNHCR office in Bangkok to support Lù A Da.

He explained that individuals who are in the process of applying for or have already been granted UNHCR refugee status can be released from the IDC provided that they post a 50,000 baht bail.

RFA reached out to the UNHCR in Bangkok to seek information about Lù’s  case, but the organization responded that they “can not provide applicants’ personal information.” 



Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Claire McCrea and Malcolm Foster.

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