Thailand's Law Society has come to the defense of two Chinese dissidents who were arrested for entering Thailand illegally, and now face possible deportation to China.
The two men, Lu Decheng and Zhao Wendong, were arrested at a Catholic church in Bangkok earlier this month as they met with other Chinese democracy activists.
Somchai Homlaor, a member of the Thai Law Society's Human Rights Committee, said the men were arrested on December 12. A court later fined the two the equivalent of $280 for entering the country illegally, and sentenced them to 55 days in jail when they were to unable pay.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that the men could be deported as illegal aliens after the completion of their jail terms.
Mr. Somchai said a lawyer from the Society had been assigned to defend the men. He said any moves to deport them would be in contravention of international standards.
"They should not be deported back to China because they are political activists and under international law if sending them back to China they may face prosecution," Mr. Somchai said. "The Thai Government should not do that. The best way is to send them to a third country."
Lu Decheng had served 10 years in a Chinese prison for throwing paint and eggs in 1989 at the famous portrait of Mao Zedong in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. He fled to Thailand in November, and applied for refugee status at the Bangkok office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to refugees, and would be under no obligation to recognize a UNHCR determination that they qualify for refugee status.
Earlier this year, the Thai government repatriated 16 Laotian dissidents, despite a Thai court ruling saying such a move was in breach of Thailand's extradition law. That law prohibits the extradition of people who may face punishment for political offenses in their own countries.
But the 16 were sent back after an agreement between Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Lao counterpart Boungnang Vorachit.