Thailand bars anti-junta Myanmar model

Thailand bars anti-junta Myanmar model

'Irregularities' found in passport of outspoken pageant contestant Han Lay on return from trip to Vietnam

Han Lay, Miss Grand Myanmar, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Bangkok in April last year. (Reuters Photo)
Han Lay, Miss Grand Myanmar, looks on during an interview with Reuters in Bangkok in April last year. (Reuters Photo)

A Myanmar model and beauty pageant contestant who took refuge in Thailand after speaking out against the military coup in her homeland has been denied entry after a trip abroad and detained at Suvarnabhumi airport, immigration authorities said on Thursday.

Han Lay, Miss Grand International Myanmar 2020, was returning to Thailand from Da Nang in Vietnam and arrived at the airport on Wednesday afternoon, said Pol Maj Gen Archayon Kraithong, deputy chief of the Immigration Bureau.

She was not arrested as reported earlier by some media, he said.

However, an immigration officer spotted an irregularity on Han Lay’s passport, so she was denied entry under Section 12 of the Immigration Act 1979, Pol Maj Gen Archayon said.

Her manager had said that Han Lay, also known Thaw Nandar Aung, was the subject of an Interpol notice but this could not be confirmed.

A source said Han Lay’s passport might have been revoked by Myanmar's military junta, hence the irregularity and her inability to gain entry to Thailand.

She will be sent back to the country where her flight originated or she can fly to an alternative destination subject to approval by the airline she flew with, Pol Maj Gen Archayon said.

According to a Facebook account called “Natty in Myanmar”, Han Lay had already sought asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand.

Han Lay, 23 captured international attention last year with a moving speech at the Miss Grand International pageant in Bangkok, where she called for urgent help for Myanmar’s people.

An arrest warrant was reportedly issued against her by the Myanmar military afterward. At the time she said she was in contact with her family and that they were safe. She had been living in Thailand ever since.

Nawat Itsaragrisil, the founder of the Miss Grand International pageant, who also represents Han Lay, said she had been in the transit area of the airport since Wednesday afternoon.

He said Han Lay was stopped on arrival from Vietnam because she was the subject of an Interpol notice.

“She doesn’t want to go anywhere else. She wants to live in Thailand,” he told Reuters. “She’s waiting for a solution on how she can stay in Thailand.”

Myanmar has been crisis since a coup in February last year triggered protests that the military suppressed with lethal force and thousands of arrests.

The junta’s crackdown had multiple targets, from pro-democracy and youth groups, to activists, politicians and even celebrities and social media influencers.

A spokesperson for Myanmar’s ruling military council could not be reached for comment. Interpol did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Han Lay was the subject of an Interpol notice.

In an interview with Reuters last year, Han Lay said her people “will never give up”.

Han Lay’s Instagram postings indicate she has spent most of the past year in Thailand.

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