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Human rights groups defend Vietnamese Christian activist

Human rights groups urged Thailand on Thursday, June 13, not to extradite a Vietnamese activist detained in Bangkok. They fear his life would be at risk if handed back to Vietnam.

According to the Peace Rights Foundation, Christian activist Y Quynh Bdap, who had United Nations refugee status in Thailand, was detained by the Thai police on Tuesday, right after he had met with Canadian Embassy officials to request asylum there.

Bdap comes from an ethnic minority in Vietnam called the Montagnards, a predominantly Christian circle living in the highlands of Vietnam and Cambodia.  

Bdap, the co-founder of the Montagnards Stand for Justice group, was convicted in absentia in Vietnam in January 2024. They charged him with 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. Thailand assisted Bdap and sent him into hiding six months ago. 

32-year-old Bdap stated: “I am a human rights activist fighting for religious freedom and advocating for people’s rights. My activities are peaceful, consisting only of collecting and writing reports on human rights violations in Vietnam.”

The Montagnard Christians have suffered persecution for decades across several borders. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom marked Vietnam as a country of particular concern for 22 years. Ted Budd a former U.S. Representative for North Carolina, and other members of the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a legislation to recognize the heroic actions of Vietnamese Montagnard Christians during the Vietnam War and beyond. This legislation outlined the challenges of obtaining the U.N. refugee status Bdap had achieved in 2018. As a U.N. refugee in Thailand, Bdap is entitled to the Thai government’s protection from being forcibly returned to Vietnam.

The legislation states: “Since October 2014, ‘up to 300 Montagnards have fled Vietnam to Cambodia, many because of religious persecution’ but ‘only 13 have been granted refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees'”.

According to Bryony Lau, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director: “Returning Bdap to Vietnam would be a violation of Thailand’s obligations under Thai and international law.” 

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