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6/14/2024 Thailand (International Christian Concern) — Thai police arrested Vietnamese national Y Quynh Bdap, a Christian activist, on Tuesday following his meeting with the Canadian Embassy to obtain asylum. 

In January, a Vietnamese court convicted the co-founder of the Montagnards Stand for Justice group of terrorism for “organizing anti-government riots in Vietnam’s central highland province of Dak Lak,” according to the Associated Press. Bdap was in Thailand at the time of the riots. 

“I am a human rights activist fighting for religious freedom and advocating for people’s rights,” said Bdap, 32. “My activities are peaceful, consisting only of collecting and writing reports on human rights violations in Vietnam.”  

In 2018, Bdap fled to Thailand and received United Nations refugee status. He belongs to an ethnic minority group in Vietnam called the Montagnards, a predominantly Christian ethnic group that lives in the highlands of Vietnam and Cambodia.  

Multiple sources have persecuted Montagnard Christians for decades across several borders. For 22 years, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended the U.S. State Department designate Vietnam as a country of particular concern, in part because of the ongoing persecution of Montagnards.  

In 2019, Ted Budd, then U.S. Representative for North Carolina, and other members of the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a resolution recognizing the heroic actions of Vietnamese Montagnard Christians during the Vietnam War and beyond. This legislation enumerated the difficulty of obtaining the U.N. refugee status Bdap had achieved in 2018.  

The legislation quoted a USCIRF statement, which said, “Since October 2014, ‘up to 300 Montagnards have fled Vietnam to Cambodia, many because of religious persecution’ but ‘only 13 have been granted refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).’” 

As a U.N. refugee in Thailand, Bdap is entitled to the Thai government’s protection from being forcibly returned to a country where he is likely to be subject to persecution. Several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, called for Thai authorities to release Bdap.  

“Returning him to Vietnam would be a violation of Thailand’s obligations under Thai and international law,” said Bryony Lau, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director. 

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