(New York) – The Thai government should not forcibly return the dissident Rath Rott Mony to Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said today. There are strong reasons to believe that Mony would face politically motivated prosecution, wrongful detention, and ill-treatment in Cambodia.
“Thailand should not do Cambodia’s bidding by forcibly returning an outspoken activist who exposed police failures to stop abuses and child sex trafficking,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Thai authorities should immediately release Rath Rott Mony and allow him to seek protection from the United Nations refugee agency.”
Thai authorities arrested Mony, 47, president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCTUF), in Bangkok on December 7, 2018, based on a formal request by the Cambodian government. Cambodian police are believed to be unhappy about his role in the production of the RT documentary “My Mother Sold Me,” which included accounts of poor girls sold into sex work. Cambodian authorities accused the documentary makers of paying the featured girls and their mothers to lie on camera to harm Cambodia’s reputation.
Thai authorities have frequently collaborated with the Cambodian government to harass, arrest, and forcibly return exiled dissidents – including opposition politicians, human rights activists, and journalists – who fled to Thailand to escape persecution by the Cambodian government under Prime Minister Hun Sen. It is critically important for Thai authorities not to put Mony into harm’s way in violation of international law.
Under customary international law, Thailand is obligated to ensure that no one is forcibly sent to a place where they would risk being subjected to persecution, torture, or other serious human rights violations. Article 3 of the Convention against Torture, which Thailand has ratified, prohibits actions to “expel, return (‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing” that they would be in a danger of being tortured.