Bangkok has asked Phnom Penh to extradite a Thai student activist who is seeking asylum in Cambodia and is wanted for arrest for allegedly giving offense to the monarchy in his home country, a media report said Monday.
The Interior Ministry’s immigration department confirmed last week that Ekkapob Luara, who also goes by the name Tang Achiva, was in Cambodia and that his application for asylum was being processed.
On Monday, The Bangkok Post reported that Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha asked Cambodia on Sunday to send him back.
“[General] Prayut said whether Tang Achiva is repatriated would ultimately depend on Cambodia,” the newspaper reported. “The Thai authorities had asked Cambodia for information and sought his extradition.”
Last week, Kerm Sarin, who oversees refugee issues at the In-terior Ministry’s general department of immigration, said Mr. Ekkapob had applied for asylum in Cambodia.
“We have this person,” he said at the time. “He did apply. His application is under procedure.”
On Monday, however, Mr. Sarin said he was unaware of any request from Thailand for Mr. Ekkapob’s return and referred the question to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Asked about Mr. Ekkapob’s status, he said he had no record of the Thai activist ever having been in Cambodia and denied saying that he had been in the country.
“We don’t know whether he is in Cambodia. Sometimes they just go back and forth,” Mr. Sarin said. “This name is not in our registry.”
Mr. Sarin claimed to have told a reporter last week that a pair of Thai nationals had approached Cambodian authorities about asylum in 2009, but had never applied.
In fact, Mr. Sarin made no such comments to the reporter.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he had seen the Bangkok Post report Monday but was not aware of a formal request for Mr. Ekkapob from Thailand, either. And after checking with the Interior Ministry, he, too, said there was no record of Mr. Ekkapob’s presence in Cambodia.
“They said [there is] no information about him in Cambodia,” he said.
An acquaintance of Mr. Ekkapob, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, said last week he had been in contact with Mr. Ekkapob the previous week and that the activist told him he was in Cambodia under the protection of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The U.N. agency did not respond to a request for comment.
The Thai junta, which has been ruling the country since overthrowing an elected government in May, accuses Mr. Ekkapob of violating Thailand’s strict lese-majeste law, which makes it a crime to question the eminence of the Thai royal family and renders public debate on the issue virtually impossible. Mr. Ekkapob was one of 28 people for whom the Bangkok Military Court reportedly approved arrest warrants in June for ignoring an order to report to Thai authorities.
A spokesman for the Thai Army could not be reached.