Rights groups urge Thailand not to extradite Vietnamese activist, saying he’s at risk if sent home

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BANGKOK (AP) — Human rights groups urged Thailand on Thursday not to extradite a Vietnamese activist detained in Bangkok, saying he could be at risk if handed back to Vietnam.

Y Quynh Bdap, who had United Nations refugee status in Thailand, was picked up by local police on Tuesday, the day after he had met with Canadian Embassy officials as he pursued asylum there, according to the Peace Rights Foundation, a Thai organization that had been in contact with him.

The co-founder of the Montagnards Stand for Justice group was convicted in absentia in Vietnam in January on allegations that he was involved in organizing anti-government riots in Vietnam’s central highland province of Dak Lak last June.

Vietnamese authorities had been making inquiries in Thailand about him, with Thailand’s assistance, which sent him into hiding six months ago, Bdap said before his arrest in a video statement.

In the June 7 video, provided to The Associated Press by Kannavee Suebsang, a Thai opposition lawmaker who is active in human rights issues, Bdap said he had “absolutely nothing to do with that violent incident.”

“I am a human rights activist fighting for religious freedom and advocating for people’s rights,” said the 32-year-old Bdap, who fled to Thailand in 2018.

“My activities are peaceful, consisting only of collecting and writing reports on human rights violations in Vietnam.”

Thai immigration authorities told the AP they would look into the case, but then never provided any information or comment.

Bdap is now being held in a Bangkok prison awaiting an extradition hearing, which could take about a week, according to Human Rights Watch.

UNHCR, the U.N. agency for refugees, said that it couldn’t comment on individual cases, but that it “actively engages” with Thailand’s government to ensure fundamental international obligations are honored, including not forcibly returning refugees to a country where they are likely to be subject to persecution.

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