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UA 268/91 - Thailand: possible unlawful killing / refoulement: Min Thein

, N° d'index: ASA 39/014/1991

Note to UA Coordinators: Within the context of your UA work, please regard
this as a PRIORITY UA.
EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 39/14/91
Distr: UA/SC
UA 268/91 Possible Unlawful Killing/Refoulement 5 August 1991
THAILAND: Min Thein, 24-year-old asylum-seeker
Amnesty International is concerned that the Thai Government policy of detaining
asylum-seekers merely for "illegal immigration" has resulted in the death of
one detained refugee, Min Thein, during an escape attempt. Amnesty International
is also concerned about allegations suggesting that the Thai police officer
who shot him to death may have acted unlawfully.
Min Thein was a student political activist from Myanmar (Burma) who fled
his country in 1988 because of human rights violations. He was one of four
people from Myanmar recognized as refugees by the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who were arrested on 29 July 1991 for "illegal
immigration". The arrest came as part of the recent intensified crack-down
by the Thai authorities on asylum-seekers from Myanmar. This crackdown was
announced on 8 July 1991 after asylum-seekers from Myanmar held two peaceful
demonstrations in Bangkok, the Thai capital, to demand that the Thai authorities
treat them according to international human rights standards and that the
international community afford them proper protection of their human rights.
In announcing the crackdown on asylum-seekers, Bangkok Deputy Police
Commissioner Major General Chaisit Karnvanakit declared: "Their being here
in the first place is not a right thing, yet they create disturbances". He
instructed police to "take stringent action" against them.
Following his arrest on 29 July 1991, Min Thein was held for two days
at the Immigration Detention Centre in central Bangkok. On 31 July 1991, he
and a number of other "illegal immigrants" were reportedly put in a police
pick-up truck and taken to a court in Minburii, on the northern outskirts of
Bangkok. Min Thein and two other prisoners tried to escape when the pick-up
truck reached the court, reportedly because they feared the Thai authorities
might eventually forcibly repatriate them to Myanmar. One was recaptured
almost immediately, but Min Thein and a second prisoner, a woman named Ma Thet,
managed to climb a wall and run away. Two local policemen on a motorcycle
chased them to a construction site, and it was there that Min Thein was shot
and suffered wounds from which he subsequently died. According to a statement
issued by a police spokesman on 2 August 1991, the policeman who shot Min Thein
was acting in self-defence. The policemen's motorcycle had reportedly
overturned, pinning one policeman under it. The police allege Min Thein had
tried to assault the trapped policeman, and claim it was therefore necessary
to shoot him. Ma Thet, however, reportedly denies that Min Thein threatened
the police, and alleges that Min Thein was shot in the back while still attempting
to flee.
After the incident, Ma Thet and the other person who had attempted to
flee were reportedly sentenced to four months imprisonment for "illegal
Amnesty International is continuing to seek information about the exact
circumstances of Min Thein's death in order to establish whether the police
acted lawfully in shooting him. In the meantime, the organization believes
his tragic death demonstrates the urgent need for the Thai Government to stop
acting contrary to international human rights standards in its treatment of
page 2, UA 268/91...
Myanmar (the official name of the country formerly called Burma) borders
Thailand on the west. Since September 1988, thousands of student and other
political activists have fled to Thailand to escape large-scale human rights
violations by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC),
which took power in a military coup at that time. These human rights violations
include the arrest of thousands of people for the non-violent exercise of the
rights to freedom of expression and assembly, routine torture of political
prisoners, and extrajudicial executions. Amnesty International believes that
any such asylum-seeker from Myanmar who is forcibly returned to the country
would be at risk of severe human rights violations.
The Thai Government has recently increasingly detained asylum-seekers
from Myanmar on the grounds of "illegal immigration". However, international
standards dealing with the protection of asylum-seekers make clear that
governments have a special responsibility to people who seek their protection.
Amnesty International is concerned that the Thai Government's practice of
detaining Burmese asylum-seekers is contrary to international standards which
state that they should normally not be detained and that, in cases where
detention is necessary, it should only be for certain specified reasons, which
do not include "illegal immigration".
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/faxes and airmail letters:
- expressing grave concern that the Thai Government policy of detaining
asylum-seekers from Myanmar merely for "illegal immigration" has resulted in
one detained refugee, Min Thein, being shot to death during an escape attempt;
- respectfully pointing out to the Thai Government that according to
international human rights standards, "illegal immigration" is not itself a
justification for detention of asylum-seekers;
- stating that you are aware that the police say the policeman who shot Min
Thein was acting in self-defence, but you are concerned by reports that an
eyewitness has contradicted the police version;
- urging that the Government initiate an inquiry by an independent and impartial
body into the circumstances of Min Thein's death to establish whether he may
have been killed unlawfully;
- urging that if Min Thein was unlawfully killed, any person responsible for
his death be brought to justice.
Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun
[Salutation: Dear Prime Minister]
Government House
Nakhorn Pathom Road
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
Telegrams: Prime Minister Anand
Bangkok, Thailand
Telexes: 84791 IMFODEP TH
Gen Itsaraphong Nunphakdii
[Salutation: Dear Minister]
Minister of Interior
Ministry of Interior
Atsadang Road
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Interior Minister Itsaraphong
Bangkok, Thailand
Telexes: 84791 IMFODEP TH
Arsa Sarasin
[Salutation: Dear Minister]
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Saranromya Palace
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Foreign Affairs Minister
Bangkok, Thailand
Telexes: 84791 IMFODEP TH;
Faxes: + 66 2 224 7095
COPIES TO: Diplomatic representatives of Thailand in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 16 September 1991.

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