Thai Fugitive Claims Asylum in New Zealand

A Thai national wanted in his home country for insulting the monarchy and who briefly sought refuge in Cambodia last year is claiming to have been granted asylum in New Zealand, according to a Thai media report.

Ekkapob Luara, who is accused by the Thai military junta of disparaging the country’s revered royal family and violating the country’s strict lese-majeste laws, announced via Facebook that New Zealand had granted him asylum, Thailand’s Khaosod English-language news service reported Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Immigration New Zealand declined to comment Wednesday on Mr. Ekkapob’s reported claims.

In September, the refugee officer for Cambodia’s general department of immigration, Kerm Sarin, confirmed that Mr. Ekkapob was in Cambodia and that his application for asylum was being processed.

After Thailand inquired with Cambodia about Ekkapob’s whereabouts, however, Mr. Sarin retracted his comments, claimed to know nothing about the fugitive and feigned an inability to speak English.

Contacted Wednesday, Mr. Sarin declined to speak with a reporter.

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