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Rights groups’ concern over Thailand asylum arrests
Wed, Dec 22, 2010
BANGKOK - An elderly Chinese dissident and more than 30 children are among a host of refugees and asylum seekers arrested and detained by Thai immigration authorities, rights groups said Wednesday.
Journalist and activist Sun Shucai, 87, “is not getting enough food” in the Bangkok detention centre where he is being held, according to media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
“We are very concerned about Sun’s health as the conditions in the detention centre are poor. We fear that a man his age may not be able to endure this ordeal,” the group said in a statement.
Sun, who served 14 years of hard labour in eastern China for writing critical articles, was arrested on December 8 despite holding papers from the UN saying his application for refugee status was under consideration, it added.
Reporters Without Borders said a judge fined the dissident 3,000 Baht (100 dollars) the day after his arrest and ordered the authorities to examine the possibility of deporting him.
Concerns about him came as rights organisations raised fears over the detention of 86 people of Pakistani origin who were arrested on December 14.
A statement from 26 rights groups sent by the Asian Human Rights Commission said they were “deeply concerned and shocked” by the detention of the group, which they said included more than 30 children.
The groups believe that almost all the detainees are either recognised as refugees or are awaiting confirmation of their status.
According to the statement all those arrested are Ahmadiyya Muslims, a group subject to “systematic persecution” in Pakistan.
“This targeted detention by Thai officials of a particular community from their homes is particularly concerning and disturbing,” the rights groups said.
Thai immigration authorities and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Bangkok were both unavailable for comment.
Reporters Without Borders said Sun had a long history of political activism and was sentenced to 14 years in 1956 for criticising China’s Maoist revolution.
Once freed he was assigned to work in metallurgical plant, but he resumed his dissident activity in 1998, writing articles critical of the ruling Communist Party.
“Sun’s only crime is to have sought refuge in a safe place because his defence of human rights was exposing him to reprisals in China,” the group said.