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Thailand: UNHCR welcomes Cambodian extradition decision on Sok Yoeun

Briefing notes

Thailand: UNHCR welcomes Cambodian extradition decision on Sok Yoeun

23 January 2004

UNHCR welcomes an announcement this week by the Royal Thai Government that the Cambodian authorities have agreed to drop the extradition request for refugee Sok Yoeun and that he will be released from detention and permitted to reunite with his family in Finland. Our regional office in Bangkok reports that the Thai authorities have played a commendable role in finding a humanitarian solution in Sok Yoeun's case following a court decision in November to reject his appeal against extradition. We also appreciate the role of Cambodian authorities in resolving this case and enabling Sok Yeoun to rejoin his family in Finland.

Sok Yoeun was recognised by UNHCR as a refugee under its mandate in 1999. Under international law, refugees are to be safeguarded from being sent back to their country of origin. Sok Yoeun is a member of an opposition party and was accused of being responsible for a 1998 rocket attack, which Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed was aimed at him. This allegation has always been denied by Sok Youen and is widely believed to be unfounded. Upon careful examination of his case, UNHCR did not find evidence that would warrant Sok Yoeun's exclusion from refugee protection for involvement in the crime alleged. Meanwhile, Sok Youen spent more than four years in a Thai prison while the case for his extradition went through the Thai legal system. He lost his appeal against extradition in the Thai courts in November, causing the High Commissioner to intervene at a high level with the Thai authorities to prevent his extradition.

The news of Sok Yoeun's reprieve from extradition demonstrates that Thailand has adhered to this fundamental international rule. It also provides another example of Thailand's longstanding tradition in according humanitarian treatment to refugees.