Overlooking Araibi's rights
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Overlooking Araibi's rights

As it requested the Criminal Court to proceed with extraditing Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi to Manama yesterday, the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) sent a message to the international community that it would rather entertain Bahrain's request than follow international principles on refugee treatment.

Araibi, who holds refugee status in Australia, has been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison since the immigration police arrested him on Nov 27, based on a false Interpol Red Notice which was later dropped.

Since then, both the Bahraini and Australian governments have been in a tug of war, trying to convince Thailand to have him returned to their countries.

But the OAG has agreed to follow Bahrain's extradition request, largely overlooking Australia's plea.

It insisted that the Middle Eastern country has evidence of Araibi's alleged vandalism of a police station in 2012.

The prosecutors, however, did not elaborate whether and how they have thoroughly scrutinised and cross-examined such "evidence" which must have been produced by the Bahraini government.

Araibi has denied the allegation, saying he was playing a televised football match at the time the incident took place. The OAG should have at least verified this claim by locating video footage of the game.

Even if Araibi vandalised the police station as alleged, the 10-year prison sentence he has been given is too harsh for such an offence.

Prior to fleeing to Australia in 2014 to escape the charges, Araibi said he was tortured by Bahraini authorities and he fears the same or even death, should he be sent back to Manama.

But Chatchom Akapin, director-general of the OAG's international affairs department, seems to have overlooked Bahrain's harsh repression record against its political dissidents following the failed Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

He says there is no evidence that Araibi would be tortured if he returns.

Under the Thai extradition law, any extradition request must not be fulfilled if the case is a political prosecution.

The Bahraini footballer said that he has been targeted because of his brother's political activism along with his criticisms against a member of the Bahraini royal family.

But Mr Chatchom ruled the case was not political, even though Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has clarified to the Thai government that Australia had carefully assessed Araibi's asylum case prior to granting him permanent residency.

Equally disheartening is the OGA's citing of the extradition law's provision on "reciprocal benefits", a rationale which shows the world that Thailand ignores human rights principles for a self-serving interest.

Now that the Criminal Court has agreed that Bahrain has a case, Araibi still has a chance to contest it. But this can take months in court and more time when the case reaches a final decision from the Thai government, similarly to an extradition case against Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.

But the government must realise that Mr Araibi is not a criminal, but a victim of political suppression. Thailand, under the current regime, may have also suppressed its own political activists.

However, as the country moves forward towards civilian rule, it has an opportunity to prove to the world that it is committed to international standards on refugee treatment and not to pleasing a ruthless regime.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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