A Thai lawyer assisting detained Cambodian monk Bor Bet said that Thai officials had indicated they would not immediately deport him and that he was still in immigration detention.
Bor Bet was detained Wednesday evening and brought to a Samut Prakan province police station, after which he was transferred to the Thai Immigration Bureau. The monk fled the country last year and is an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a Thai human rights defender and director of the Cross Cultural Foundation, said authorities had indicated that they would not deport Bet immediately, and that the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand had been informed by the country’s National Security Council that the deportation will be delayed.
“He will remain detained and is still waiting till they decide,” she said Thursday evening.
She said there were three possibilities going forward. If the Cambodian government really wanted Bet extradited, then court prosecutors from both countries would have to work together, she said, but that the monk could have a lawyer advocate for him. Bet would be sent to prison pending this process.
Bet had been detained for an alleged violation of Thai immigration law, she said, and if Thai authorities pursued a case against him he would remain in immigration detention for now. Thirdly, the Thai authorities would release the monk and “respect international laws,” she added.
“We urge Thai authorities to release Bor Bet and respect his status as a refugee as recognised by the U.N.,” she said. “Bilateral agreements on police cooperation, like this, risk breaching international standards towards refugees and damaging both countries in the eyes of the world.”
Earlier in the day, Bet told VOD that he was registered as a refugee and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees was assisting him. The U.N. agency did not reply to a request for comment.
Immigration department official Kirth Chantharith directed questions to the National Police, where spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun said he was unaware of Bet’s detention.
“It happened in Thailand. I don’t know about this news at all. You ask me about the news, I do not know how to answer,” he said. “I don’t even know when he got arrested.”
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.
Charles Santiago, a Malaysian parliamentarian and chair of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said the detention of Bet was an “outrage.”
“The Thai government must immediately put an end to this series of arrests and deportation of individuals seeking protection inside its borders,” said.