Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, concourse building, section D, baggage screening prior to boarding

59 Chinese Christian asylum seekers exiled in Thailand leave for US

Dozens of Chinese Christian asylum seekers who fled alleged religious persecution in their homeland left Thailand for the United States after being released from Thai custody for an immigration violation, police and United Nations officials said Friday.

A group of 63 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church (also known as the Mayflower Church) had feared Thailand might deport them to China, but American officials and a lawmaker reportedly intervened and persuaded Thai authorities to send them to the U.S.

Exiled Chinese Christian Group Arrested in Pattaya for Overstay

“They flew out last night on multiple flights,” a police official who works closely with Gen. Surachate Hakparn, the deputy national police chief, told reporters in Bangkok on Friday.

Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin Service confirmed with China Aid staff on Friday that only 59 of the 63 church members are on their way to the U.S. They will arrive at Dallas International Airport at 7 p.m. local time. One family of four stayed behind in Thailand.

Earlier in the week, Surachate said that Thai authorities had met with American Embassy officials and the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR to arrange for the Chinese Christians to be sent to the U.S. for resettlement, and their departure from Thailand was expected to happen on Friday.

Exiled Chinese Christian Group Arrested in Pattaya for Overstay

“We understand this group left to the U.S. However, we are unable to provide details on the procedures involving these cases due reasons of confidentiality and protection,” Morgane Roussel-Hemery, a spokeswoman for UNHCR, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, in an email Friday.

The American embassy in Bangkok declined to confirm the information and referred questions to the U.S. State Department.

While talking to reporters on Wednesday, Surachate said that authorities arrested the members of the church group last week after the National Police Bureau launched a crackdown on undocumented Chinese visitors who may commit crimes while staying in major Thai cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket.

Full story: rfa.org

By Nontarat Phaicharoen and Uayporn Satitpanyapan for BenarNews

Copyright © 1998-2023, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

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