BANGKOK (AP) — A Myanmar model who denounced her country’s military rulers last year during a beauty pageant in Thailand said on Friday she feared she would be forced to return home.
Thaw Nandar Aung, also known as Han Lay, told The Associated Press by phone that she has been stranded at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport since being denied re-entry to Thailand when she arrived Wednesday evening after a short trip to Vietnam. She was living in Thailand but needed to get out and back to extend her stay.
She said she was seeking help from the UN refugee agency to avoid being sent back to Myanmar, where she feared harsh punishment from the military government she criticized.
People who are refused entry to Thailand are usually deported to their last point of departure, but the UN agency has informed them that they will be arrested in Vietnam and then repatriated to Myanmar.
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat confirmed in a text message that Thaw Nandar Aung had been refused entry to Thailand “due to a problem with his travel document”.
“The relevant authorities have not made an arrest and have no intention of sending him anywhere at this stage,” he said.
Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and has cracked down heavily on widespread opposition to her rule. He has used lethal force to quell protests and arrested critics, including actors and other celebrities, under various laws with potential penalties ranging from three years in prison to death. In July authorities executed four activists accused of involvement in terrorist activities.
Thaw Nandar Aung said that upon her arrival in Bangkok, Thai immigration authorities entered her name into their online database and then asked her if she had reported her passport missing in Vietnam. to which she replied “no”. She said they then showed her a screen. they said there was an Interpol red notice for her, meaning that a country’s police had requested that she be detained.
It was not possible to immediately confirm whether Interpol issued such a notice. However, Myanmar’s military government has unilaterally revoked the passports of many of its key opponents in an effort to restrict their activities.
Thaw Nandar Aung has used her platform as a contestant from Myanmar at last year’s Miss Grand International beauty pageant in the Thai capital, Bangkok, to speak out about the killings of pro-democracy protesters in her native country.
“Every citizen of the world wants prosperity for their country and a peaceful environment,” she said. “In doing so, the leaders involved must not use their power and selfishness.”
“Today in my country Myanmar, as I go to be on this stage, there are so many people dying, more than 100 people died today. I am deeply sorry for all the people who have lost their lives,” she said. , pausing frequently to hold back tears.
She added, “I mean here, please help Myanmar. We need your urgent international help right now.
Her support for her country’s pro-democracy movement continued online after the contest.
On Thursday evening, Thai police told her that Myanmar police had come to see her, but she refused to meet them, Thaw Nandar Aung said, adding that she expected to meet with officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. United Nations for Refugees on Friday.
“Everybody is now trying to protect me, like UNHCR,” she said before her meeting. “I think they will find a solution for me today. Let’s see.”
Calls to him later Friday went unanswered. The UN generally seeks discretion in its efforts to help people find asylum.
Jerry Harmer, Associated Press