The UNHCR has denied its involvement with a Thai refugee accused of lèse majesté living in France and also condemned her for disrespecting King Bhumibol’s death. But instead of gaining sympathy, it has received more condemnation.
On 18 October 2016, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Thailand published
a statement on its Facebook page denying its involvement with Saran Chuichai, also known as Aum Neko, a lèse -majesté suspect who is currently in exile in France.
UNHCR Thailand statement also condemns Saran, who the statement does not directly name, for disrespecting the King Bhumibol Adulyadej who passed away on 13 October.
“UNHCR states clearly and unequivocally that it has no direct or indirect connection to this individual,” reads the statement “Asylum claims in France are determined solely by the French Government. UNHCR strongly condemns any comments attributed to this individual, which reportedly relate to the demise of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.”
Saran left Thailand in exile after the 2014 coup and fled to France. She had been charged with Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, for expressing her radical opinions against the monarchy online.
After the late King’s death, Saran broadcast radical comments, which were deemed full of hate speech, through Facebook live. Thai royalists on social media subsequently condemned the UNHCR for facilitating Saran’s escape from the country.
This statement, however, failed to ease public anger against UNHCR as can been seen in the comments.
“Too easy to say sorry without responsibility. Thailand didn’t have a war. Why did you support her escape from Thailand?” read a comment.
“I'm the one who has been donating. You keep telling me please do care for refugees of many countries around the world, but your organization should care for my or Thai people's feeling too,” read another comment.
Other people supporting freedom of expression increasingly condemned the organization for not protecting its own values.
“This is an entirely inappropriate comment for the UNHCR and should be reported to headquarters. UNHCR's mandate is non-political, humanitarian and social and this statement is counter to all these principles,” read a fourth comment
“Very disappointing that the human rights rep of Thailand is taking political sides and actively supporting the erosion of human rights in Thailand.” read a fifth comment.