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Thailand human rights progress in question as Australia seeks protection from extradition

Hakeem Alaraibi, detained in Thailand following wrongful Interpol notice

By Radha Stirling

Ever since the referendum of 2016, Thailand has been in what is officially called a “transition period” that is supposed to move the country out of military dictatorship. The world remains skeptical, as the junta that controlled the country for 2 years retains the power to appoint a significant portion of the legislature and holds permanent seats in the senate. There have continued to be disturbing reports from Thailand about human rights violations, political repression and persecution of activists. Just last month bodies filled with concrete were discovered in the Mekong River that have been identified as aides of missing democracy activist Surachai Danwattananusorn. In other words, the Thai government has to make an effort to demonstrate to the international community that they are genuinely concerned about human rights.

The arrest and detention of refugee Hakeem Alaraibi and Thai authorities’ consideration of an extradition request from Bahrain is not helping the global image of Thailand, and causes grave doubts about the country’s transition to democracy.

Hakeem fled Bahrain after being unjustly arrested and tortured in custody. He was granted asylum by Australia due to the serious risk to his life if he were deported to his home country. Interpol immediately cancelled the Red Notice against him when the organisation realised that Hakeem was a refugee from Bahrain and his extradition to that country would violate Interpol’s policy. Yet Hakeem is still at risk of being returned to his torturers; and this decision is entirely in the hands of the Thai government.

For the international community, the memory of Thailand’s crackdown on peaceful protesters is still fresh, as is the memory of Bahrain’s brutal response to pro-democracy activism in the wake of the Arab Spring. The case of Hakeem provides the Thai government with an opportunity to prove its commitment to human rights and democracy; to honour Australia’s asylum for Hakeem, and to disavow collaboration with authoritarian,