Beauty queen Myanmar in the limbo of the Thai airport, fears arrest at home

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By Jiraporn Kuhakan

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A beauty queen who spoke out against Myanmar’s military rulers was stranded for a third day at Thailand’s international airport on Friday, hoping to gain entry, when activists and her employer urged authorities to stop her. not return to her home country.

Han Lay, who received international attention last year with her moving speech about the army’s deadly suppression of anti-junta protests in her native Myanmar, has been denied entry by Thai authorities despite seeking refuge for the past year. in Thailand.

The 23-year-old model, whose real name is Thaw Nandar Aung, was arrested at Bangkok’s Suvarnhabhumi airport on Wednesday as he returned from a short visit to Vietnam. The immigration office said she used invalid travel documents.

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The event management team working with Han Lay said they hoped she would be able to re-enter Thailand.

“All we want is for her not to return to Myanmar because if she comes back we don’t know what will happen to her,” said a representative, who declined to be identified because she was not authorized to speak to the media. .

Asked about Han Lay’s case on Friday, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said authorities have “made no arrests and have no plans to send her anywhere at this stage”.

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Thailand travel center is often embroiled in tug-of-war between countries seeking the return of civilians and activists who say these individuals would face persecution if they were sent home.

These include an Australian footballer who was arrested in Thailand in 2018 at Bahrain’s request for criticizing the monarchy, and an 18-year-old Saudi woman who was stranded at the Bangkok airport after fleeing her family.

A spokesman for the Myanmar junta could not be reached for comment on Han Lay’s case.

She and her manager have said she was the subject of an Interpol red alert, the highest alert level for a person. Thai police and the immigration office have declined to comment and Reuters could not independently confirm such a report.

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In a Facebook post, Han Lay said Myanmar police were at the Bangkok airport to meet her, but she declined and had contacted the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The Thai police referred Reuters to the immigration office about this.

The UNHCR said its policy was not to confirm individual cases.

In a Tweet, Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said Thai authorities should protect Han Lay and return her to Myanmar “under no circumstances”.

(Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan, Chayut Setboonsarng, Juarawee Kittisilpa and collaborators at Reuters; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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