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Thailand to free Pakistan refugees
Posted: 04 June 2011 2034 hrs
A Thai soldier stands guard close by Government House in Bangkok.
BANGKOK: Thailand on Saturday confirmed it would release a group of almost a hundred Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers whom activists said includes several dozen children and a baby born in detention.
Ninety-six people, most of whom were arrested in December, will be released from a Bangkok detention centre on Monday, an immigration officer said.
The detained group are from Pakistan’s Ahmadi Muslim community, who suffer violence and persecution in their home country, according to the Thai Committee for Refugees, which helped organise the release.
Veerawit Tianchainan, the organisation’s executive director, said there were 34 children under 12 among those detained in cramped rooms that he said were filled with up to 150 people despite being designed to hold just 40 inmates.
He said one baby was born inside the facility and described conditions as “unhygienic and very crowded”.
“Children were separated from their mothers or fathers and that kind of condition, psychologically, is very very bad,” he said, explaining that families were split up because men and women are held apart.
The organisation has paid a five million baht ($165,000) bail bond and undertaken to provide for the welfare of the Ahmadis as they await the results of resettlement applications, mainly to the US.
“I think that back in Pakistan the Ahmadi were outcast by the Islamic institutions… there was a lot of physical abuse,” he said, adding that the group will now be housed in a Bangkok suburb.
Ahmadis are considered by many Muslims to be heretics and the Pakistani government has officially declared them as non-Muslim.
Ninety-nine Ahmadis were killed in the country in 2010 – more than the total number of the minority group killed in the previous 14 years – according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its annual report released in April this year.
“We had unprecedented killings of Ahmadis in 2010 and the government hasn’t got the guts to console and sympathise with them,” HRCP secretary general I.A. Rehman said at the time.
Veerawit said the agreement to release the group was a “historic development” as it was the first time such a large number of refugees had been freed at once and praised the Thai immigration bureau for being “very cooperative”.
Rights groups had slammed the decision to arrest the Ahmadis in the first place as almost all were believed to be either recognised refugees or awaiting confirmation of their status.