The UN Human Rights for South-East Asia expressed grave concern over the deportation by Myanmar - via Thailand - of Turkish national Muhammet Furkan Sokmen, and strongly urged authorities not to deport those deemed at risk upon their return to Turkey.
Mr Muhammet, an accountant who had been working at an international school in Yangon, is at least the sixth person to be deported from South-East Asia over alleged connections to a movement led by exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen, who is accused of being behind a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. Five Turkish nationals have been forcibly returned from Malaysia since last October. It is believed all five remain in detention without trial.
The UN Human Rights Office has serious concerns for their safety in Turkey where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would face an imminent risk of grave human rights violations, including torture.
Mr Muhammet was reportedly arrested at Yangon International Airport on 24 May. At the request of Turkish authorities, he was allegedly deported to Turkey via Thailand. In Thailand, he was held at an immigration detention centre for 24 hours before being deported to Turkey on 26 May.
UN officials have been in regular contact with the Thai authorities regarding the possible deportation of Mr. Muhammet and had warned of human rights risks if he was sent to Turkey. The principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of anyone who is at risk of human rights violations including persecution or torture, is contained in Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to which Thailand is a party.
"We strongly urge States to stop deporting individuals to countries where there are substantial grounds to believe that their safety and well-being is at risk," said Laurent Meillan, acting regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia. "We reiterate our call to all governments, including in this latest case the Thai and Myanmar Governments, to put in place an effective system of review before deportation occurs to ensure that the health and legal rights of all persons are respected at all times and in compliance with international standards and norms."
In the past month, the Regional Office has documented an increasing number of cases involving Turkish nationals - in particular academics and business people - who have been scrutinised by Turkish authorities in South-East Asia over their suspected links to the Gulen movement.