Bangkok: September 13, 2015. (PCP) Reverend Tim Eaddy of Christchurch Anglican Church, Bangkok, prays over the report, for Lord Alton (centre) and for Pak-ChristiansGenocide scholar Desmond Fernandes and Rainer Rothfuss
have challenged the UNHCR in Thailand in a recently published book to be more proactive in ensuring the safety of thousands of Pak-Christans in Thailand. The book, authored by Desmond Fernandes and with a Foreword by Rainer Rothfuss, was delivered by hand by the Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry, to Peter Trotter, Senior Protection Officer at the Bangkok UNHCR offices on Tuesday 8th September 2015. The book so impressed Peter Trotter that he asked for an electronic version so that it could be sent to a wider number of senior UNHCR staff. Peter Trotter has agreed to meet with the BPCA again to discuss further the contents of the book later in the year.
After leaving the UNHCR offices, Mr Chowdhry visited the Deputy Head of Missions at the British Embassy in Thailand, Paul Bute. Mr Bute extended an initial 30 minute meeting to over an hour, as he discussed in detail the awful plight of Pak-Christians in Thailand. Mr Bute was extremely aware of the plight of Pak-Christians and assured the BPCA that he had been raising the issue with both the Thai Government and the UNHCR. He said: "Thank you for following up Lord Alton's visit and presenting me with the report on Pakistani Asylum Seekers in Bangkok. We will continue to talk to the UNHCR about this issue."
During the meeting, he questioned BPCA operative Christian Malik on what response victims were getting from the Pakistani High Commission in Pakistan. Christian Malik responded by informing him: "We are given no assistance from the Pakistan Embassy, we are viewed as traitors."
Mr Chowdhry questioned Paul Bute on the reaction that would be received from the British Embassy with regard to someone fleeing Britain for Asylum. Mr Bute responded by saying: "We will consider any request for consular assistance from British citizens regardless of their views about, or actions against, the British Government. The vulnerability of the British citizen making the request is an important criterion for providing assistance."
Mr Chowdhry and Christian Malik had earlier visited Lord Alton at his hotel at Suvarnabhumi Airport, taking prestigious friends from Thailand along, including Rev Tim Eaddy of Christchurch Anglican Church; Ruth Eftakaria and Anju George of TrotB Ministries; Sunny Gill, a renowned humanitarian photographer. Lord Alton described his entire visit and illustrated great empathy with the long suffering Christians of Pakistan. Mr Alton responded to our concerns that the risk profile of Pak-Christians in Thailand was weakened due to the British Home Office Policy statement from Feb 2015, which states: 'Christians in Pakistan are a religious minority who, in general, suffer discrimination but this is not sufficient to amount to a real risk of persecution' (click here for full document).
Lord Alton replied: "Whoever at the Home Office wrote this statement should be sent to live in Pakistan with a Christian family. If a systematic campaign of bombings, killings, the burning alive of people and their homes, the rape and forced marriage of Christian girls and a systematic campaign whipping up hatred doesn't amount to persecution, it is hard to imagine what would have to happen before the Home Office described it as persecution."
Lord Alton received a draft copy of our book and had earlier received an e-copy. He commended the report and it's obvious comprehensive and extensive detail. He directed the BPCA to send a copy by email to all UK Parliamentarians requesting that they read the contents and initiate further debate on the matter of persecution in Pakistan and the manner in which it seeks to help Pak-Christians in Thailand. He believes a book as well written as ours could be a trigger for real change. He said:
"The treatment of Pakistani Christians fleeing persecution is an international scandal. This report highlights the vicissitudes and egregious violations of human rights which they face in their homeland. This is a timely, scholarly and hugely important wake-up call challenging our indifference to their suffering."
The 364 page book, commissioned by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), examines the extensive human rights violations taking place in Pakistan, including genocidal violence being inflicted against several ethnic and religious groups. The manner in which educational policies in Pakistan are fuelling the crisis by promoting an intolerance of the "Other" is also considered.
The desperate situation faced by Pakistani Christian asylum seekers (amongst 'Othered' groups) in Thailand is also detailed. This has arisen as a consequence of questionable Thai governmental policies and practices (linked to Thailand's decision not to be a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol) and reportedly distressingly mismanaged UNHCR practices and actions. Pakistani Christian asylum seekers are being subjected to police raids, arrest, criminalisation and incarceration in circumstances they cannot influence (many of which are caused by UNHCR mismanagement). Pakistani Christians consequently are having to live, for the most part, in conditions that are both degrading and inhumane.
The book, by detailing the human rights violations taking place in Pakistan, as well as the questionable way in which several governments (including the British and Thai ones) and inter-governmental bodies like the UNHCR have treated Pakistani Christian and "Othered" asylum seekers, needs to be read by concerned citizens, parliamentarians, human rights organisations, UNHCR managers and representatives of governmental, non-governmental and inter-governmental bodies. It will also be of interest to lawyers, refugee and asylum activist groups, investigative journalists, educationalists, academics and students from a wide range of disciplines.
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, has commented that: "This is an important book that shines much-needed light on mostly hidden, unreported human rights abuses in Pakistan; notably the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities - often with state orchestration and collusion."
Electronic copies of the book are now available on our website at a cost of £2.50. We expect release of our paperback publication sometime in October.
Desmond Fernandes is a genocide scholar and former Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and genocide studies at De Montfort University. He is also the co-author of The Targeting of Minority 'Others' in Pakistan (BPCA: London, 2013), The Education System in Pakistan: Discrimination and the Targeting of the 'Other' (BPCA: London, 2014) and author of The Kurdish and Armenian Genocides: From Censorship and Denial to Recognition? (Apec: Stockholm, 2007; Peri: Istanbul, 2013) and several other books and articles. Rainer Rothfuss, who wrote the Foreword, was Professor of Conflict Research and the Head of the Research Group of Human Geography at the University of Tubingen from 2009-15. Together with international partners, he is establishing a new humanitarian organisation called Rescue Refugees International.